Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Anita Silvert

This interview is part of the Network-Weaver Series. More info & interviews here

I'm pleased to introduce Anita Silvert, singer, songwriter, Jewish educator, and the Co-Chair of this year’s Limmud Chicago. She holds a master’s from Spertus College and works in Solomon Schechter Day School teaching English, Bible, and Rabbinical Studies. 

Can you describe what “network-weaving” means to you?

It used to mean just knowing a lot of people. But it’s evolved to mean: being able to see how disparate things can work together. It’s being able to see a big chessboard and sense where people might fit in a bigger picture.

Do you agree or disagree with the statement: “Today we live in a networked world”? What challenges exist?

I definitely think the world has become more networked, because technology has allowed it to become that way. The sphere in which we operate now is global, and that’s different than it used to be. The challenge in this is that you can forget your own backyard.

What to you is the difference between a network and a community? Or is there one?

A network is more purpose-oriented – I network for a particular reason, and it feels like an aspect of work. Community is more about daily life – who is there for me on a regular daily basis. But I definitely think they overlap; people in your network can sometimes become part of your community. Moreover, both networks and communities are composed of people you are purposefully engaging with. We are all members of lots of communities and networks which sometimes overlap, like a Venn-diagram.

To what extent does social media influence how you connect with others and form networks and communities?

Facebook is part of my daily life – it has connected me with people I went to high school with. I’m learning about twitter. I haven’t developed friendships with it yet; I’m using it in more of a utilitarian way – I want to get my name out there, to get people to understand who I am, and to read interesting things for work. It’s fascinating to see what other people are saying and reading. It’s a real advantage to know what the trends are and what people are into. If I had always depended solely on the Chicago Tribune, I wouldn’t have found out about It Gets Better or have heard as much about Occupy Wall Street.

Could you tell a little about your blog, why you started it, how it’s been rewarding?

I was trained in Bibliodrama by Dr. Peter Pitzele – developing contemporary midrash using theater techniques of improvisation and role playing – which really meshed theater and Torah for me. When I began writing Dvrei Torah while working at the JCC, I discovered the perfect combination of theater and wrestling with the text, and I realized that I was finding my voice in doing it. I made the conscious decision that continuing it in the form of a blog would allow me to establish a professional presence in the Jewish community as a Torah-wrestler with a contemporary voice; as an educator and writer; as someone who can speak and teach. I now have a documented history of engagement with the text, and it has led to other opportunities, such as my blog at JUF News

Anita Silvert blogs at http://anitasilvert.wordpress.com and tweets as @AnitaSilvert.

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