JCRCs new Web page embracing activists and the unaffiliated

For school officials trying to plan their school year, the page links to a Jewish calendar. For those interested in the peace process, it has documents from the Arab-Jewish negotiations in Oslo. For those researching current events, it has headlines and editorials from Israeli newspapers.

For those exploring topics ranging from anti-Semitism to religious pluralism, a search engine uses key words to scan the site's considerable archives. The page also has an area where users can post and read comments.

Santis spent six months putting it all together, learning HTML (hypertext mode language) as he went along.

"This was a lot of fun to do," he said, noting that he often stayed up until 1 a.m. trying different layouts. "I just had a blast."

For one thing, the page is simply a sign that the JCRC is trying to keep up with the times, said JCRC executive director Rabbi Doug Kahn.

"Our young leadership groups seem to have a high percentage of people who prefer the Internet as a mode of communication. So this is responsive to a 1990s trend that will only get greater."

But if the page does what its designers wish, it may also reach users who might otherwise drift from the Jewish community, or who already have little connection with organized Judaism.

"They might see an issue that's important to them," Santis said. "It might be a gateway into the Jewish community. They may get caught up in a discussion thread. It could be the first time they've had a public discussion on Jewish issues."

The site is designed to address even non-Jewish Web surfers, who may welcome the discovery that the Jewish community is not a single-issue group, Santis said, explaining that the page links to information about welfare, legislation and a scope of other subjects.

But the page's most important function, Kahn feels, is its potential for boosting activism. Anyone looking for the Jewish community's response to crises throughout the world can get the answer instantly, and can also find a continually updated schedule of upcoming rallies and events.

The page also includes action alerts encouraging users to take steps toward influencing legislation and provides links for contacting government officials.

The page does not yet have a device set up to record the number of users who have visited it so far. But Santis was surprised recently when he got an e-mail request from a user wishing to subscribe to "Israel News and Views," the Israeli headline news service on the JCRC's page. The subscription is one of many services the page offers. What made the request unusual is that it came from someone in Haifa.

"He could just go down to the corner and get the paper," Santis said.