Over the last couple of years we have seen more and more articles about synagogues turning to the internet to reach more of an audience. Some want to try and create an entire community online, complete with online video conferencing to speak to a Rabbi, but others, like Temple B’nai Or in Morristown, NJ, are taking it a little slower. They all have the same goal, though, which is to draw more people in to Jewish life.
Temple B’nai Or experimented with streaming services on Friday evening and Saturday morning, said the New Jersey Jewish News, and have found such success it now wants to move on to streaming bar and bat mitzvah services, High Holiday services, and even weddings where the whole family isn’t able to attend. At first there was a concern that people would use online services as a way to avoid coming to the physical temple, but Rabbi Donald Rossoff said the positive response to the experiment has shown that people who watch online are then motivated to attend in person.
There is also an understanding that offering services online will help lower barriers for unaffiliated members of the community who are looking to join a synagogue. In a press release, synagogue president Stuart Rayvid said “observing our service through the Internet is a wonderful way to experience from a distance some of our most spiritual and joyous moments.”
Of course, there are challenges in all of this for B’nai Or and others who are taking advantage of the Internet. For instance, people already affiliated with either a synagogue or the Jewish community in general are more likely to know about online services. So if the goal is to reach unaffiliated members of the community, how do you build that bridge? What’s the best way to use this technology to promote the joy and value of being a part of the Jewish community and give people a truly meaningful experience – one that will help them take the next step and walk through our doors? Let us know what you think.