Jewish Online Radio
Even greater than the financial free fall and external challenges to Jewish identity is an internal chasm that is widening between youth and their connection to Judaism. The future of American Jewry hinges on a Judaism of relevance. Simply put, the window is closing fast on reaching Jewish youth effectively and successfully beyond a small committed core. Jewish Internet radio is a slam dunk formula for success in realizing the goal so elusive in the Jewish world today - reaching Jewish youth successfully through their love of music, online interaction, and high-quality media.
- Rabbi Micah D. Greenstein, Senior Rabbi, Temple Israel, Memphis, TN
The landscape of Judaism has shifted with the emergence of a variety of new technologies empowering a new generation of young Jews to engage, educate, explore, and inspire in ways unimaginable just ten years ago. Whether young or old, we still crave meaning, purpose, and connection, but we are starting to meet our cravings in different ways and in different places. For young Jews, these places often revolve around music. A recent MTV study said, “Teens stated that music defines them more than family, moral values, religion, and style.” For teens and young adults, music influences the clubs they attend, the friends they hang out with, the clothes they wear, the causes that touch them, the time they spend (or don’t spend) with their families, and the way they perceive their religion. Young Jews are finding their entertainment, education, and inspiration, but they are finding it outside of the Jewish world.
The Jewish world is not effectively meeting young Jews in the places they define as important in their lives. Digital media and devices such as iPods, smart phones, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, and Internet radio provide the music and variety young adults crave, yet the Jewish world is taking baby steps to enter the digital arena with only recent investments in digital mass communication channels such as Internet radio, television, and online magazines. The urgency for innovation is rising dramatically as the Jewish world competes in a cutthroat world of products, facing a critical challenge to quickly repackage Judaism in a way that our youth can consume it.
Internet radio is one of the most rapidly growing digital media for young adults, regardless of religion. Internet radio, also known as web radio, net radio, streaming radio and e-radio, is an audio listening service transmitted via the Internet. Internet radio presents listeners with a continuous stream of audio that cannot be paused or replayed. According to Bridge Ratings & Research, an astounding 80 million Americans per month listen to Internet radio, 11 million more since late 2008. This exploding national listenership doubtless includes over a million Jews who do not have a Jewish option. Christian youth, on the other hand, can tune in (via computer or smart phone) to thousands of radio stations on the Internet, where messages of faith, education and entertainment are distributed using music, podcasts and online video.
While the Jewish world has developed myriad opportunities for youth to find meaningful engagement in Jewish life, we lack a global communication channel such as Internet radio to widely broadcast the availability of these engagement options. Jewish Internet radio will ultimately offer the Jewish world the same access found in the Christian world, to not only inspire young adults through music, but also communicate Jewish values, broadcast Jewish engagement opportunities, and advertise Jewish products. As Bill Moller, Business Development Director of TC Public Relations and on-air host on Chicago WLS radio, states, “Internet radio will explode in both size of audience and number of stations. This is the time, before the system is saturated and hyper fragmented, to establish a beachhead and start building an audience. The moment is critical but fleeting. You have the perfect convergence...the need (Jewish youth ready to re-engage with their roots and their religious identity through their music) and the means (technology to create inexpensive radio over the Internet for world-wide distribution).”
In the digital realm, there are ripe opportunities for new types of Jewish engagement, yet few offer the economic engine necessary to justify significant investments by individuals and foundations. Fortunately, for a communication channel with global reach, Internet radio requires relatively inexpensive capital investment and ongoing operational expenses compared to other communication channels such as visual media which often requires millions rather than hundreds of thousands in outlay. Internet radio offers the potential for substantial revenue streams, once again, well demonstrated in the Christian world and Christian Internet radio. The likely revenue streams through Internet radio pose a unique opportunity for the Jewish world to, not only sustain an Internet radio business, but to market products and activities that are relevant to young Jewish adults.
The audio content streamed on Jewish Internet radio will represent the convergence of music, religion, fashion, activities, and lifestyle. There are many Jewish companies, organizations, and bands exploring the Jewish impact of music and other types of media in the digital arena including JDub Records, JVibe and Jewcy online youth magazines, B’nai Brith Youth Organization, and many others. A Jewish Internet radio station offers a communication link to bridge these unique silos of Jewish life and engagement, amplifying their activities, causes, and content for mainstream Jewish young adults who listen to Internet radio.
In Jewish leadership circles, the hot phrase is ‘Jewish continuity.’ Jewish parents appropriately worry about what the world will look like someday when they are gone. They want to ensure their children will have opportunities to grow up and be touched by Judaism in the transformative ways they have been touched. If ‘continuity’ is the concern, then rapid transition into digital arenas represents the sense of urgency to catch up with young adults who are meeting their needs more than ever outside of the Jewish world on the Internet. When we imagine a world where we will meet their needs for connectivity, inspiration, entertainment, and education, the Internet is the playground we must cultivate.
Rick Recht, the top touring musician in Jewish music, has revolutionized and elevated the genre of Jewish rock music as a powerful and effective tool for developing Jewish pride and identity in youth and adults. Recht has become an icon for Jewish youth in the US, widely recognized not only as an exceptional entertainer, but as a Jewish educator and role model for engagement in Jewish life. Recht is the founder of Judaism Alive, a nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen Jewish identity and connection in youth through their love of music, musical instruments, and online interaction.