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In 1994, an early attempt to connect Jews ‘through Internet’

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This article appeared in our Jan. 14, 1994 edition:

“Reach out and touch world Jewry” could be the motto of a new computer network created by a group of mavens who have never met face to face.

The network, know as Jerusalem One, is based in Israel’s capital city but linked to the world through Internet, a global network that lets other computer networks interconnect.

“About a year ago there was talk about implementing a network that would electronically connect the Jewish community worldwide,” recalls Dick Marin of Novato, one of the network’s founders and its Bay Area representative.

Computer networks allow individuals to contact people and institutions around the world via a computer-telephone connection. In the case of Jerusalem One, that means a user in the Bay Area can browse the National Library in Jerusalem, get an article from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, or check the Haifa bus schedule.

According to Marin, a 52-year-old staff network consultant for Milpitas-based Sun Microsystems, while there are Jewish discussion groups and databases on other computer networks, Jerusalem One provides one address “designed and only designed to interconnect the [entire] Jewish community.”

That community “can be a person with a PC [Personal Computer] at home or a Jewish community center or a synagogue or a school,” Marin says.

In fact, Marin and his rabbi have been talking about bringing Congregation Rodef Sholom online.

“It does fire the imagination,” says Rabbi Michael Barenbaum, whose San Rafael congregation already has an internal electronic mail system. “It’s like having an extensive Jewish library at our fingertips, and having new and perhaps better ideas available to us all the time.

Barenbaum sees Jerusalem One as “both a resource for clergy and teachers and a great learning tool for the kids.”

For Marin, “there’s an infinite number of uses” — temple sisterhoods exchanging ideas, teachers and school administrators comparing notes, schoolchildren from Berkeley to Riga becoming electronic pen-pals, olim (immigrants to Israel) staying in touch with family and friends

“It’s a new form of communication,” he says, “and it doesn’t take a lot of technical know-how. It’s just a matter of signing on.”

Almost anyone connected to a university can participate through Internet, to which they already have access. Others can reach Internet — and Jerusalem One — through a commercial network such as WELL or CompuServe or by calling a vendor such as PSI.