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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


June 16, 2017  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Promise kept: New app connects local Jews

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

Screen shots from the Federation’s first-of-its-kind mobile app, showing the home page and a page where photos are posted. Screen shots from the Federation’s first-of-its-kind mobile app, showing the home page and a page where photos are posted. Last month, Emilie Socash delivered on a promise she made a year ago – to put the local Jewish community in your pocket.

Socash, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, made good on her promise at the Federation’s Annual Meeting on May 16 when she unveiled an app for use on smart phones and tablets. It was made specifically for the Pinellas-Pasco Jewish community and is the first of its kind among Jewish Federations of North America, she said.

The free app, called Jewish Connections Pinellas and Pasco, is a social media based app that is available in both the Apple i-Tunes app store as well as in Android’s Google Play Store. Folks can download the app on smart phones and tablets by using the code Pinellas123.

Recalling her pledge at the Federation’s 2016 meeting that the organization was working on a way to forge new connections within the community, Socash said, “I said that we were working on a way for you to have the entire Jewish community in your pocket, and tonight, we have just such a tool.”

The Jewish Connections app offers multiple channels that members can opt-in to. There is a “photos” channel that feels and acts like Instagram and a “community connections” channel that can be used similarly as Facebook. The “announcements” channel is a one-way communication tool for Jewish organizations.

In addition to those basic channels that everyone sees, there are channels that are optional when logging in the first time. Those include interests like: Women to Women, Men to Men, Families, Judaic Youth, Young Adults and Israel. Users can even create their own private channel and invite their friends and family to join it.

“One of the great features of the app is the ability for anyone to create an ‘event,’” said Elana Gootson, who spearheaded the project and serves as the Federation’s director of philanthropy and collaborative entrepreneurship. “Whether you are hosting a potluck in your sukkah and only want to invite the people in your private neighborhood group or you are posting your Sisterhood event for the whole community, you can easily advertise Jewish events big and small.”

Socash said the Federation also will use the app to post an events calendar, but added it is mostly for community members to “create your own groups as well, private or public.”

“It’s simple: this app isn’t for us at the Federation,” she said. “It’s not for us, or for the organizations in our community to tell you all the wonderful things that you should come out to or give to. It’s for you, and all that our community wants to create.”

Socash said the app is on “a Facebook-encrypted platform where only members who have registered can view and post.”

The genesis of the app was at the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual national conference last year, when Gootson and Socash met a young entrepreneur from Jerusalem named Avraham Orbach. He was promoting his start-up company, Webbing Labs, and it’s new platform for connecting communities. Webbing Labs was founded in 2014 and was finally ready to help businesses and organizations create branded mobile communities that help members build connections, interact directly with the organization and stay informed.

Orbach had built a robust and ambitious platform that could be customized and was password protected. All he needed was a brave client to be the first test market, Gootson said, adding that she and Socash knew that the Jewish community of Pinellas and Pasco was ready to connect.

Webbing’s software bundle includes a comprehensive administration dashboard for the organization’s staff to easily upload content and manage activity on the app.

“The app’s main menu is organized into “Channels” and “People.” “Channels” are the topics relevant to the community, while “People” are the other community members on the app. Along the top of the app screen are a map, calendar, and menu button for additional app features, such as the profile page,” Orbach said.

When the app was announced at the Annual Meeting, members of the audience were encouraged to sign in immediately and post photos as Orbach, awake in Israel at 3 a.m. anxiously waited to see what the first users posted.

“In its ultimate iteration, we envision the app to be a place where our community holds an ongoing conversation about who’s doing what and how we can all be a part of the action.” Socash said. “At first, individuals will be able to see what’s there, but over time, we anticipate that community members will feel free to post their own events and happenings in order to break down any communication barriers.”

Already, photos from a recent Jewish Heritage Night event with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field have been posted, as well as some from the Tampa Bay Jewish Food Festival held in Clearwater.

“It has a nice layout. It is well organized and you do not have to go deep to find what you are looking for,” said Jamie Shapiro, a Jewish Press intern who tried out the new app, signing on in seconds and navigating easily.

She noted that users can set up notifications for specific groups so that when someone adds something, the others will know it is there, a feature just like Facebook.

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