Just before the High Holidays, we received a question from a gentleman in Antarctica. He is a doctor working down at the McMurdo Station, about 850 miles north of the South Pole. He wrote to us asking where he could find streaming High Holiday services because there wasn’t a synagogue in sight. We directed him towards the Jewish TV Network, which was streaming both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. Hopefully the doctor was able to watch and pray – and if he did, he would have joined the nearly 200,000 people from all over the world who took advantage of these free, online services.
Offering High Holiday services for free online proved to be a tremendous success for the Jewish TV Network. In an article in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, we are told that people who logged on included “Jews and non-Jews in small isolated communities across the United States, the bedridden and terminally ill, disaffected young Jews who never go to shul and single mothers who couldn’t afford the cost of High Holy Days tickets.” According to the article, “the response stunned Jay Sanderson, CEO and executive producer of JTN Productions.” He said he received over 400 “enthusiastic, at times ecstatic” emails from the people who watched.
While the congregation that ran the services, Nashuva, is based in Los Angeles, they found a way to bring Judaism to everyone who wanted to participate. And they put it right in their homes. Talk about lowering barriers! Even if a person didn’t have their own high-speed internet connection, chances are they knew someone who did. At the end of the day, when you can boast a Kol Nidre service with around 200,000 participants, it’s safe to say you are doing something right.
Hopefully the service and its accessibility resonated with many of the people who watched, and they will continue to find ways to engage with the Jewish community. But it’s clear from the overwhelming response that there are lots of folks out there who have a desire to become part of the community, and it’s our job to continue to find creative and innovative ways to welcome them in.