Cyber Synagogues

We recently read about Rabbi Yitzhak Miller, who was able to confer with a bride-to-be in Beijing before her interfaith wedding and help a sergeant in Iraq with his conversion to Judaism. What stands out about such globetrotting is that all was accomplished online from Rabbi Miller’s home in Northern California.

Rabbi Miller, who is the executive director of and does much of his work through, now joins Rabbi Celso Cukierkorn as one of a growing number of Jewish professionals who are turning to the web as a way to lower barriers to participation. We have written extensively about this issue in the past, including virtual synagogues and outreach professionals who use podcasts (a radio program that can be downloaded and listened to at a later time) to reach the unaffiliated. JOI’s Rabbi Kerry Olitzky also wrote an essay for the journal Sh’ma last November titled “Lowering the Barriers and Raising the Meaning.” In it he calls for utilizing modern technology to help facilitate the conversion process – and open more doors for more people.

Rabbi’s Miller and Cukierkorn are making good progress in terms of lowering barriers, but we would like to take it even further. As Kerry wrote in Sh’ma, the people who make connections online should then “be introduced to local rabbis and mentors in a national, apolitical network of rabbis who will introduce them to their local communities.” Increasing access points through an online connection is one step – engaging them in a physical community will help strengthen their identity and lead to sustained participation in Jewish life.

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