One of my projects for the past couple of months has been working with a web designer on our new Ahavas Israel web site. By the time you read this it should have replaced the web site that Paula Bojsen created for us about five years ago. Paula created a state of the art web site which over the years has been a valuable virtual front door to the congregation. It is fascinating to me how quickly time goes by in the internet world. Five years is a generation. A five year old web site looks dated, but more importantly, the technology that was used to create and maintain had become obsolete. We undertook the redesign project in order to ensure that our web site functions not only as an attractive and informational brochure for potential members, but also as a communications tool for our congregational family.
While researching web sites of other synagogues, I found many, belonging to both large and small congregations, that contained broken links and out-of-date information. As a virtual front door to the congregations, they reflected badly on the organization. We are grateful to Rachel Lutwick-Deaner for keeping our website updated for the last few years.
One of the interesting things about building a web site is that it is a great equalizer among congregations. A 2000 family synagogue might have a large building and staff along with an eight figure budget and a multi-million dollar endowment, and might offer a greater variety of programming than a small congregation, but you can put their web site and ours side by side, and the differences shrink. A large congregation is just as likely to have a difficult to navigate, out of date, web site as a small congregation.
I also found organizations with web sites that gave no sense of the personality of the congregation. Many Federation and Chabad web sites, which take most of their content from a national organization suffer from this. Such generic sites may have useful information, but the personality and uniqueness of the local organization is buried underneath the identity of the national parent organization. In the world of news, we know that national and international news can be found any number of places; local news sources, however, are much more limited in number. A web site of a congregation should stress the local, not the national. Our web site reflects the fact that Ahavas Israel exists to provide local community and connections.
Our new web site can be found at the same address, AhavasIsraelGR.org. Please visit it and let me know what you think. Let me know what else you’d like to see, and let me know if the organization and layout is intuitive and usable.