To Stream Or Not to Stream

We all know about TV Evangelism. For many years, finding church services on local and national TV stations has been commonplace.

Congregation Emanu-El in New York City has had its Shabbat Evening Worship Services on the radio for as long as I can remember. Now its Shabbat Evening Services and all of their other Worship is on its Internet radio station and the video is also streamed each week, and is also archived.

The first instance of “video streaming” that I can recall was actually back in 1998. Gerald Bonder, the dad of one of my camp friends, had quadruple bypass surgery 4 days before his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. With the help of friends in the entertainment business, Mr. Bonder arranged for his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah service at Temple Beth Am in Framingham, MA to be beamed via satellite to his hospital room at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was able to offer his charge to his grandson via a telephone connection that was tied in to the synagogue’s sound system.

That was a big deal back in 1998. Today, with technological advances, there is so much that can be done to stream services, educational programs, and almost anything that happens at the synagogue over the Internet.

Fast forward to 11 years later. In 2009, Temple B’nai Or in Morristown, NJ was one of the first synagogue’s to use the Internet to begin to stream their Shabbat Worship services. With the focus on social networking, the synagogue’s leadership wanted to be ahead of the curve.

The URJ has compiled a list of more than 30 Reform synagogues that are streaming services today. And there are probably more that can be added to this list, from all denominations.

Equipment needs to do all of this are minimal and not too costly. The camera is probably your biggest expense. Having someone to operate the camera so it shows not only the service leaders, but also the congregants to convey community spirit and feeling is also something to think about.

Should your synagogue stream its services? We all know of friends who are sick, or who live in assisted living facilities that are a bit of a distance to our synagogues. Or people who can’t drive. Or even relatives who live out of town who would love to be present for that Bar or Bat Mitzvah. And of course there are those cold and snowy – or rainy – winter nights. At Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ, Rabbi Richard Address, who recently retired as senior rabbi and who now devotes his efforts in the area of Jewish Sacred Aging, offered “… we received notes from people who, for family or other issues, were unable to attend a service as well as people who were out of town but who wished to remain part of their community”.

Streaming services can actually serve as a community connector.

Streaming is another marketing avenue. Like your website. While it can be a way for current congregants to stay connected, it also can be a reminder of what congregants, and those thinking about becoming a part of your synagogue community, might be missing.

4 Comments on “To Stream Or Not to Stream

  1. For the first time I watched the streamed services for Kol Nidre because I was not able to attend. While it really felt weird to have my prayer book open, and to do responsive readings in my own home, watching the computer- I was able to see the service, listen to the music and hear the Rabbi give his sermon- so the next day when I was able to be at services I could engage in all the discussion about the servie.

    • Liz,

      Many thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your comments remind me that people interested in participating this way have to have a prayer book, or be able to have access to one online.

      Thanks again. Be well.



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