Rabbi Yoel Kahn, the new senior rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, CA, recently filmed 15 brief segments posted on YouTube.com as a way for his new congregants to get acquainted with him. The segments include “Why He Became a Rabbi” and an especially inclusive message in “Sharing Our Jewish Life Stories” (click image to watch). We applaud Rabbi Kahn’s innovative approach to reaching his community via the World Wide Web.
JOI constantly advocates outreach that brings Judaism and Jewish community out to where the people are. So how do you get people to YouTube to watch videos of Rabbi Kahn? The main target audience is obviously those individuals already involved in Congregation Beth El, who can watch the videos to learn what the rabbi has to say about his vision for the future of Beth El and how to make it a welcoming, diverse community. But perhaps there are some folks on the periphery of the Jewish community who may simply stumble upon these YouTube videos. By “putting himself out there” so publicly, Rabbi Kahn will surely reach Jews beyond the synagogue’s current membership.
It is clear from the videos that Rabbi Kahn has an enjoyable persona and is comfortable in front of the camera. It is also clear that he is often talking directly to those who already have access to Congregation Beth El. We hope Rabbi Kahn will continue to make more such videos, but to speak to an even broader audience as well—those who may live nowhere near his congregation but that can still benefit from his teaching and his obvious enthusiasm for Jewish life and learning. To grow the Jewish community, we have to reach beyond those who have already entered the doors of our institutions. Rabbi Kahn’s videos show the potential for using the Internet to open the doors to the community and to welcome in all those who have yet entered its gates.
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