Live Streaming The High Holidays
Can’t go to shul? Bring the shul to you.
During last year’s High Holidays, Raymond Rosenfeld was visiting family in England and attending services there, but he also wanted to connect with his home temple, Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township, where he’s been a member for 30 years and served as president.
Beth El webcasting gave him that opportunity. He pulled out his iPad, watched formal readings and saw members he knows well.
“I thought the webcast was incredibly well done,” he says. “The videography and the sound were excellent. It’s good to know that people who can’t get to services can watch them as they happen or at their own leisure.”
Temple Beth El has been webcasting services for more than a year and, along with webcasters Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield and Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, has had positive responses to entering the digital age. Their programming provides access to both religious worship and congregational connections for those facing obstacles that prevent in-person attendance.
“We wanted to reach congregants and friends,” says Kim Raznik, Temple Beth El executive director. “We have cameras permanently mounted and an IT specialist to operate the equipment.
“No matter where people are, Temple Beth El is available to provide a meaningful spiritual experience so they can feel part of our community. I’ve listened to services and especially noticed how beautifully the cantor’s voice comes through.”
Matthew Hammond, who is not Jewish, holds responsibility for seeing that all services are recorded and available for watching as they happen or at a more convenient time.
“It’s an honor to have this technology in my hands, and I’ve learned so much about Judaism,” he says. “I think I know all the holiday songs.
“We can tell that people all over the country are tuning in, and we have between 20 and 30 people from Canada. On Yom Kippur last year, we had 280 viewers.”
High Holiday webcasting draws many kinds of viewers, those who are ill or caring for others, workers on out-of-town assignments, vacation travelers, people who have moved away but want holiday time with family and those reluctant to go to services on their own when relatives and friends are unable to join them.
Congregation Shaarey Zedek has been webcasting for about six years.
“Other organizations were providing services in this way, and we decided it would be a good idea for us,” says Shira Shapiro, Shaarey Zedek executive director. “We had been offering a phone listen-in program before the webcasting.”
Between 50 and 75 people tune in for the Shaarey Zedek fall services with equipment operated by the synagogue maintenance team.
Janice Stoneman, Shaarey Zedek vice president, used a laptop to bring services to her mother, Hilda Green, during a brief illness, and her late father, Meyer Green, as he was facing more serious health issues.
“My parents always had been regular shul-goers,” Stoneman says. “Being able to bring the shul to them was so remarkable and comforting. They could tune in and tune out according to the way they were feeling, and that connectivity was important to them.”
Linda Brodsky, a Temple Israel teacher who does not consider herself a tech person, has found webcasts very easy to use as a way of being with family while circumstances interfered with going to the sanctuary.
When her late husband was very ill, she stayed home with him so they could watch services together. After a serious injury, Brodsky again turned to the web. Her daughter Ronda also relies on religious webcasts because of a leg problem that hinders her ability to be in crowds.
“I’ve gone to services all my life and didn’t want to miss them,” Linda Brodsky says. “The webcasting has been important to my family.”
Alan Harris, Temple Israel chief operating officer, oversees the work done to provide webcasts, available for about five years.
“For whatever reason, not everyone can make it to the sanctuary; and we want them all to be part of services,” Harris says. “I have a sister, Marsha Harris, who lives in New York. She watches on the web so she can feel she is with family on the holidays.”
Temple Israel makes streaming available to people in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers. Last fall, the website was opened 29,197 times. Of those, 1,559 connections continued through an entire service stream.
“Two staff members take care of the live-streaming,” Harris explains. “In the temple, we provide headphones for the hearing impaired.”
by Suzanne Chessler | Contributing Writer
To watch or listen to services, key in or dial in:
- Temple Beth El: Go to TBEonline.org and click on the video streaming link or dial (866) 871-8894 and enter code 882709#.
- Congregation Shaarey Zedek: Go to shaareyzedek.org and click on “Services” or dial (800) 378-6135 and enter code 27354986#.
- Temple Israel: Go to temple-israel.org and click on the link.