Listserv Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments: Our Top Ten Listserv “Thou Shalt” Guidelines


Or, netiquette for a world of communication well beyond those stone tablets

The Adat Shalom listserv is a valuable tool for our community – a way for us to deepen our connections with each other and the congregation by sharing interesting observations, family news, comments on the issues of the day as well as synagogue news and requests for help or information. These guidelines are presented in hopes not of limiting conversation, or even disagreement within the community, but in protecting the listserv as a space where that conversation can flourish.

I. Avoid Lashon Hara (“evil tongue”)
Jewish ethics of speech are extensive, and applied to the impersonal medium of a Listserv they demand our strongest efforts. We are our words. Before posting, always think about the community–hundreds of readers–each of whom will take your words differently. Is your message sufficiently respectful, clear, and concise? Judaism ranks lashon hara (“the evil tongue”) among the greatest sins; frequent violators will be terminated from their listserv subscription.
Online discussions may uncover varied points of view and disagreements. Our rebuttals to another’s opinions or beliefs require logical and thoughtful response. Don’t rant; do keep in mind the effect on the whole congregation of your tone and your content.
It is also wise to read comments with an assumption that all members are offering their opinions in good faith. When multiple interpretations of a comment are possible, choose the more charitable one, and respond based on that choice.

II. Keep postings relevant
The listserv is primarily for matters of interest to our community. While that obviously covers a wide range of topics–political, cultural, religious, communal, etc.–keep in mind that your message will be sent to some hundreds of busy Adat Shalom households around our metro area. “Less is more”–please do not inundate the list with irrelevant or unimportant posts.

III. Keep personal postings private
To write to an individual, make sure you hit the Reply button; if you use the Reply to All button, your reply will go to the entire list…..please use caution. To send your personal messages–including “thank you” and “got it”–directly to the individual, you must copy his or her address and enter it in the To field, deleting the Adat Shalom address.
Perhaps a phone call or a meeting with a fellow congregant could be more respectful and effective than a list-wide posting. Not all concerns must be laundered and dried in front of our entire neighborhood.
Our members are often interested in others’ queries, and appreciate reading answers to many questions. If you are soliciting multiple responses, such as a list of plumbers, as a courtesy you should ask for individual replies. If appropriate, you could send a summary for the community.
Even when you respond directly to an individual regarding something they posted, we still must avoid Lashon Hara. This eliminates what is called flaming–targeting an individual privately with unkind words.

IV. Use clear subject lines
To respect the time and attention of your fellow congregants–readers, please–please!–avoid generic subject lines such as Help, Now Available or Need Info. The more specific your subject line, the more people will read and respond to your posting, and the more respectful you will be (Examples: “Oneg swap needed for mm/dd/yyyy” — “Indoor plumber needed ASAP” — “Awesome Israel article link from today’s paper” — “Job Posting: DOJ attorney”). When you respond to a posting, check that the subject line still reflects the topic at hand; if needed, enter a new subject, accurately reflecting the changed topic.

V. Sign every posting
Subscribers whose e-mail’s header information is stripped away by their local e-mail system simply won’t know who sent it, unless the sender’s full name is included in the message text itself (this also helps decipher those clever email addresses that are unfamiliar to people outside your immediate friendship circle). Longer e-signatures containing contact information and affiliation are acceptable.

VI. Create context
Postings should begin with a concise introduction (topic sentence) or a clear reference to a specific previous posting. Often the listserv hosts long and overlapping “threads” of discussion; unreferenced postings are confusing (especially to those receiving it as a digest). On the other hand, please do not simply add your remarks atop a long stream of previous posts and e-gobbeldy-gook (those codes and seemingly random alphabet letters that are unrelated to content). One effective way to provide context is to offer a short and relevant quote from the original message.
Avoid or explain any jargon, abbreviations, or colloquial language that may be unknown to our wide audience. The same goes for Hebrew and Yiddish terms, familiar to some yet not all of us.

VII. Do not litter
As the communication world overflows with emails, please help us all to reduce unnecessary messages. When you post, consider the overarching precept: is your message necessary, adding real value to the discussion for everyone?
Search the listserv archives to find resources that have been previously discussed on the list. It is disrespectful to use our community as a substitute for easy-to-find research.
Limit the use of attachments with your listserv messages—they use a great deal of storage space, the index can’t find them, and those who read the listserv digest can’t get them.
Don’t send long documents directly to the list. Describe the document and give instructions for retrieving it, or offer to send it to those interested via a link/URL. Please provide a link/URL for copyrighted materials as well.
Don’t post personal requests on the listserv (“What time is the program on Sunday?”) that could be resolved by calling or emailing an informed person, checking our website or searching back through your emails. Use the roster or phone directory as a first and primary resource.
Please keep posts linking to a personal blog on specific subjects to a minimum. Consider sending such postings to a subset of the listserv or to a personal distribution list with known interest in the subject.
Only send a message to the entire list if the intention is to engage or inform everyone. Messages such as “Thanks for the information” or “Me, too” should go to individuals—not to the entire list.
Do not congest the listserv by forwarding jokes, product recalls, recipes or “do this and you will win” emails that circulate on the Internet.
Do not forward unsubstantiated virus warnings, urban legends, or warnings about medical, personal or idiosyncratic issues unless you check with sites such as Snopes (, or are completely confident of their authenticity.
If you send a message to the list by mistake, you do not need to send an apology to the whole list unless the message might be offensive or personal.

VIII. Forward correctly, with care
Forwarding out: messages posted on the Adat Shalom listserv are private, community communication; they must never be forwarded or copied (either explicitly or blindly) to others outside our community without explicit permission of the author(s) (save announcements of public events only).
Forwarding in: when forwarding outside announcements of events of interest to our community, please cut out extraneous lines, yet leave enough information to clarify the original source.

IX. Be civil
Respectful debate and discussion is always welcome on the listserv. If you disagree with another’s posting, you have the right to voice your objections. The key is civility. If you would not be comfortable saying it openly in a D’var Torah discussion during a Shabbat service, then don’t share it via the listserv. Before sending your message make sure it is complete and says what you intend, honoring the rules of Lashon Hara (see the First Commandment). Jewish ethics of speech sometimes allow us to pass along relevant sensitive information or opinion, but always err on the side of caution and kavod (respect).
Do not attack others or use abusive/derogatory language. The discussions on the lists are meant to stimulate conversation, not to create contention. Everyone is encouraged to share their insights and comments without dominating discussions. Remember the listserv is here to engage a community by learning, sharing, and growing via this communications tool.
Be cautious with the use of humor or sarcasm. Typed language is naturally colder than spoken language, because it is stripped of voice inflections and body language. Quite easily, sarcasm can be taken as insult, especially if subtle, and humor can be missed altogether. Some users prefer to use symbols that hint at tone, such as the smiley face: 🙂 Another option is to frankly note humorous messages with your emotional intention in brackets, for example [smiling here] [said jokingly].
If the message is extra “hot” or edgy, waiting an hour (or a night’s sleep) to post or respond may be advisable. The growing accessibility and ease of smart phones have increased the need to demonstrate a little patience or impulse control.

X. Contact our mediator
While our listserv has no moderator (unusual in many virtual communities), the Board has appointed a mediator who is responsible for attention to netiquette issues. Please communicate your concerns or questions by contacting It is the mediator’s task alone to deal with individuals who have breached our guidelines; this will be managed privately, on a case by case basis, and in keeping with the ethical standards we expect within our congregation.
As divined by the Adat Shalom Listserv Study Group (12/17/09; revised September, 2013.)

Adat Shalom Listserv Guidelines

Advertisements and Announcements
The Listserv does not accept ads from outside organizations, vendors or commercial entities. However, many of us work in organizations whose materials and events may be of interest to our members, personally and professionally. Infrequent announcements that clearly meet this criterion (e.g., volunteer and employment opportunities, efforts specifically sponsored by and for Adat Shalom members, etc.) are welcome on an occasional basis.

Political Endorsements
Our community members are passionate about their politics- and where Jewish values inform public policy, Listserv postings may be fruitful. However, in light of IRS restrictions on non-profit organizations, like ours, we have determined that we will not use the Listserv to endorse or support any candidate or political party in any way. Political discourse is, of course, acceptable on the Listserv–even encouraged-yet it must be done in a way that respects these boundaries.


And now to the Listserv