Online classifieds, newsletters network congregants

"Need rides?"

"Does someone near and dear to you have diabetes?"

"Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me!…Please bring new adult and children's underwear."

"Mazel tov on your conversion."

Kol Shofar is online, are you?

The Tiburon congregation sends Shabbat newsletters and classified ads to 80 percent of its members via e-mail. Michael Liepman, who developed this service and is also executive director of the synagogue, calls it a "wonderful way to connect to people, to buy things from them and to form a community."

While a number of synagogues and committees send special announcements to congregants, Kol Shofar produces a weekly online newsletter that includes a calendar of events and upcoming guest speakers and even the hours of the gift shop.

For the 20 percent of the 500-household synagogue that are not connected to the Internet, mostly the elderly, the newsletter is available in print Friday night and Saturday mornings.

"There are wonderful success stories," says Liepman, who began the e-mail news service about two years ago. The synagogue also posts the information on its Web site,, enabling those outside the synagogue to take advantage of the classifieds and find out about activities.

Through the online ads, for example, Diana Hylander located an apartment to rent, while Scott Lowe connected with someone who was looking to lease office space, which he had available.

Lowe, who only has time to quickly "thumb through" all the paper mail he receives from Kol Shofar, admits that a print newsletter "could be coming and I don't even know."

But he pays a good deal of attention to his e-mails. Regarding the synagogue's classifieds, Lowe said, "the reason I took notice was because it was sent to me electronically…it was in my face. This way, I don't miss it."

Hylander called the e-mail notices "interesting to read" and "a blessing" because they allow her to learn what other congregants and the synagogue are up to.

Sometimes the messages have a strong sense of urgency. Very recently, Liepman received a notice from congregant Ellen Rothman stating that her mother would be going into surgery that evening and needed donations of O-positive blood. He immediately posted the note to that week's classifieds.

The response was overwhelming. In a recent newsletter, Rothman expresses gratitude and thanks "to those who responded to my request for blood for my mother's surgery which was completed successfully…You can not imagine how touched and moved I was to receive the responses that I did and SO QUICKLY! Thank you."

Liepman collects and inputs the classified e-mails, while Robyn Wasserman, Kol Shofar's administrative assistant, takes care of the Shabbat e-mails.

While the service is extremely valuable to the Kol Shofar community, Liepman says, it isn't expensive because "all it costs is [our] labor."

Liepman says he receives "constant feedback" from members about "how they love it so much."