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Streaming Shabbat Services

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.



5 Comments

  1. We have been videostreaming for about a year from our online synagogue - www.OurJewishCommunity.org. It’s a fabulous way for people to connect with the Jewish holidays. During the High Holidays this year people will even be able to download a pdf of our unique liturgy so they can follow along. As you note - there are many unaffiliated Jews - and our online congregation is designed to reach them. Whether people are geographically isolated, physically handicapped, or unaffiliated for various reasons - we can provide them with a connection to the Jewish community. It is truly a contemporary Jewish experience.

    Comment by Rabbi Laura Baum — September 2, 2009 @ 10:38 am

  2. Do you think that there’s a dramatic uptick in streaming services live?

    Comment by Rabbi Hayim Herring — September 10, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  3. Thank you for your blog.Thanks Again.

    Comment by Rory Cuomo — January 23, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

  4. If you take a look at many of the other religious organizations, most follow the same, inadequate formula: A television camera or two, in the balcony, and just a stream of video without commentary or subtitles.

    A truly value-added production would include high definition video and high quality audio, but also ongoing commentary about what is happening and what the meanings of the readings are, along with English subtitles where Hebrew is read/sung.

    There are probably a million or more Jewish citizens here in the USA, and more around the world, who do not go to Shul simply because they never were taught about the prayers and the service, and are therefore uncomfortable sitting through a service that they do not understand, nor appreciate.

    1. High Definition video
    2. High quality audio
    3. Quiet commentary by a rabbi as the service progresses. (This could be provided as an opt-in, or opt-out feature just like audio commentaries on DVDs
    4. Subtitles (again, as an opt-in/out feature) so English is provided AS THE WORDS ARE READ in Hebrew.

    If anyone knows where this is already being done, please post a link.

    Just an aside: Why do we not have a rabbinic school that would allow for most of the coursework to be completed via online courses? For example, a program that students could do during the “school year” with a some resident courses during the summer months?

    Comment by J. Tyler Ballance — January 6, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

  5. Tyler makes some really good suggestions. I would add some streaming via the web so that we could get services to those who are bedridden via I-phone apps.

    Comment by Clairese — March 4, 2013 @ 2:24 am

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