Public affairs councils site gives action alerts, analyses

Jewish organization Web sites are a dime a dozen, and some of them aren't worth much more than that.

But many groups are learning to use the Internet effectively to get their message across and keep their members involved. A case in point: the updated site of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the public-policy arm of Jewish Community Relations Councils around the country.

The JCPA site offers an impressive array of information attractively packaged and designed to be used by visitors, not just perused.

The home page offers a quick survey of hot issues, with recent press releases, news analyses and action alerts for activists.

There's also a special section on the current crisis in Israel, although the material here is a little thin. And a "JCPA Insider" section includes news from Washington and New York and links to resources around the country to help Jewish activists do their thing.

Want to find the nearest JCRC? A nationwide directory lists them all, and when appropriate, provides links to their Web sites.

Last week, JCPA activists gathered in Washington for their annual plenum; the Web site provides highlights of the event.

All told, JCPA has put together an attractive site that's clearly meant to be used by Jewish activists, not just to serve as a high-tech advertising brochure.

Check this website out at

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Okay, it's a cool name:

But great names don't necessarily mean great sites, as this one demonstrates. There's plenty of promise here, but delivery is sorely lacking.

The site authors describe it this way: " is an Internet-based marketplace and information network portal that caters to the Jewish community and Jewish interested audiences worldwide. The site provides a unique and value-added mix of commerce, content, and community related services."

The site aims to be an all-purpose Jewish portal, but there's a lot of competition in the field, and aside from the cute name, doesn't beat many others.

The opening page recently offered a single feature — a review of a Holocaust book. But click on the link, and you end up at an online bookseller's pitch for the book. Big deal.

Click on "Parashah Commentary," and you're shot over to the Jewish Theological Seminary site.

A "compare prices" shopping page just takes you to an all-purpose Web shopping service. And if you click on what seems to be a Jewish singles link, you end up at an all-purpose online dating service that has nothing to do with Jewish singles.

A portal that's just a collection of assorted links isn't bad, but to work, it has to be really comprehensive and tightly focused on its intended market. MatzohBallSoup is the opposite — a lazy collection if ever there was one, with only the most superficial Jewish focus.

There's also a little discussion area, but not enough gabbers to make it worthwhile. A travel section has a few more links, but not nearly as many as other Jewish Web portals. And an anemic news section won't do much to keep you informed.

Want a good Jewish portal? Try at, the slow-loading Zipple at, or HaReshima: the Jewish Internet Portal at

Sorry, guys. proclaims itself the "best dish on the Net." Not true; the soup is thin and the matzoh ball not particularly tasty. But check it out for yourself at

The writer is a Washington-based correspondent who has been writing about Jewish Web sites since the early 1990s. His columns alternate with those of Mark Mietkiewicz. Besser can be reached at [email protected].