When the Temple of the Arts synagogue in Beverly Hills began to broadcast its High Holiday services on television 22 years ago, the response was overwhelming.
David Baron, the founding rabbi of the 25-year-old synagogue housed at the historic 1,800-seat Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, said they expected to get a few responses from the elderly who were homebound or from those who resided in assisted living facilities.
But, he was pleasantly surprised.
“The messages we received were truly eye-opening,” Baron said. “They were from people who were recovering from surgery. Young people in drug rehab programs. Women with fibromyalgia who wanted to watch the services together as a support group. A wonderful Christian group that wanted to learn more about Yom Kippur.”
For two years, the synagogue has also been streaming its High Holidays services online. The services that are broadcast on the Web are edited versions from the High Holidays the year prior.
In 2018, however, the temple will begin to livestream High Holiday services on the West Coast, Baron said.
Rabbis have been divided about whether to broadcast or livestream High Holiday services, but of late, more and more synagogues have begun to do so, taking into account the elderly, disabled and those who cannot afford to pay hundreds of dollars for tickets to attend these services.
Synagogues in Southern California take different approaches to technology during the High Holidays. Some livestream the services free to the public. Others use pre-recorded broadcasts. Some livestream services that are only accessible to paying members of the congregation.
And then, there are orthodox Jews who will not use electricity or electronic devices on the Sabbath or during the High Holidays and traditional congregations that prefer a good old-fashioned personal, face-to-face connection.
Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana has been streaming live broadcasts of its High Holiday services for five years.
“We wanted to make ourselves more accessible to everyone,” said Rabbi Heidi Cohen who has served the congregation for the last 20 years. “We’re trying to open the doors even wider through the use of technology.”
She said she’s even thinking about using Facebook Live during next year’s High Holiday services.
But the decision to incorporate technology on the Sabbath and High Holidays hasn’t been easy, Cohen said.
“I really did not want people to think they could just sit in front of their computer and…