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B’nai Or streams its Shabbat services via the Internet

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On-line with B’nai Or

Temple B’nai Or’s streamed services can be accessed from its own website, www.templebnaior.org or through www.vfaith.com, a website created by Randolph resident Jeff Kevelson. Kevelson’s website provides streaming capabilities to congregations of all faiths. Temple B’nai Or is the first synagogue on vfaith.com.

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On its website, Temple B’nai Or bills itself as “the warm Reform congregation in the heart of Morris county.” They may have to amend that to include the whole world.

Since May, the synagogue has been streaming its Shabbat services on Friday evenings and some Saturday mornings on a live webcast available to anyone with Internet access.

That puts B’nai Or in the vanguard of high-tech shuls. A search using — what else — the Internet revealed only two other synagogues with such an offering: Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Ala., and Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in Winnepeg, Canada.

B’nai Or was approached by Randolph resident Jeff Kevelson — owner of vfaith.com, which streams services of various churches over the Internet — to be the site’s first synagogue.

“I called a handful of synagogues, but B’nai Or was very open [to the idea]…and reaching out” via the Web, Kevelson said.

He said other synagogues are also showing interest in the service.

B’nai Or’s Rabbi Donald Rossoff said his reason for making the cyberspace move was twofold: First, the synagogue is “beginning to venture into social networking” and they are interested in “starting a presence on the Internet.”

He said that the idea initially led to a “concern that if people are able ‘to attend’ a service from home, they may not feel a need to come to temple themselves.”

But, said Rossoff, he felt “people come to services to be present and to be with other people,” and that they wouldn’t stay at home if they were already planning on attending.

Now that B’nai Or has been streaming for a few months, Rossoff said, congregants have told him, “‘I couldn’t make it to temple, but I watched it and it made me want to come more.’” And, he added, “since we started doing it, I haven’t heard anything negative about it,” from within or outside the congregation.

In addition to Shabbat services, some b’nei mitzva services, programs, and events will be streamed as well.

“In a few weeks, I will officiate at the wedding of a congregant to an Israeli man,” said Rossoff. “His parents will be there, but most of his family is not going to be there. But they will have access to it.

“Speaking personally, my own relatives all over the country and abroad had the opportunity to witness live my own son’s speech from the pulpit when he and his classmates were graduated from our Orim Hebrew High program,” said the rabbi. “It is a wonderful service to provide for our congregation and their extended families as well as for the larger community.”

An upcoming adult bar mitzva of a Holocaust survivor who lives in the assisted-living residence at Lester Senior Housing Community in Whippany will be streamed so that his friends who cannot get to the service may see it.

Kevelson, who is now considering membership at B’nai Or, said the immediacy of seeing an event live is affirming and exciting, “not the same as having a CD sent to you after an event has occurred.”

Congregation president Stuart Rayvid noted an additional benefit in a news release. “For those who are looking for a synagogue affiliation, observing our service through the Internet is a wonderful way to experience from a distance some of our most spiritual and joyous moments.”

B’nai Or plans to stream its High Holy Day services this fall.

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