As the threat of Covid recedes, more and more activities have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Of course, now that we have been introduced to Zoom and similar programs, we have continued to take advantage of them when it makes sense. Evening meetings and classes, and much of our adult education programming seem more convenient on Zoom particularly for those who prefer not to drive at night, those who want to tune in even when they are out of town, as well as for guest speakers who we no longer need to transport from distant cities.
One major activity which seems to straddle the line at the Temple, however, is our Friday evening service which, with a few exceptions for Shabbat dinner programs, continues to be on Zoom. We owe a major thank you to Gary Raymond who has hosted our Zoom programs through the height of Covid and continued to run the Friday evening service for the past three years. We are most appreciative of his ongoing efforts on our behalf.
That said, while the advantages of continuing on Zoom mentioned above are true, we want to consider the possibility of returning to in-person services on Friday evening once more. While it is possible and permissible to pray at home or elsewhere, our tradition feels strongly that the appropriate place to offer prayers, when possible, is the synagogue, a sacred space set aside for worship and study. Secondly, we all know there is a different feeling when one is together praying with fellow congregants. As the sages say, “B’rov am hadrat Melech, in the multitude of the people is the glory of the King.” Third, technically speaking, congregational singing is very difficult on Zoom because of the delay between the leader and the respondents. It is hard to sing together. Fourth, and very important, is the social dimension, gathering for the oneg shabbat following the service. It is nice to have a few moments together with others to shmooze, to see one another, to have a cup of tea together, and share some other refreshments and catch up on the news.
We would like to hear from you your opinions on the matter before we make any changes. Send us an email to email@example.com. We believe that we have several options at the present time and we hope that you would take a moment to share your thoughts and to take advantage of our ongoing services:
1. We could continue indefinitely on Zoom for Friday night with its positives and negatives.
2. We could return to regular Friday evening services in the Temple as before the pandemic.
3. We’ve only tried this once, but we could do a low-tech hybrid service, holding services in the Temple, while placing a laptop on the reader’s stand for those joining us by Zoom.
As some of you are aware, there are congregations who have elaborate setups to provide streaming or zooming for those who cannot easily attend in person. We estimate that such a setup would involve a cost of a couple thousand dollars at least, a cost that we do not believe we can currently afford unless someone cares to make a generous gift.
Please let us know your thoughts and preferences for the continued Friday night service and we will let the Religious Committee make a decision on how to proceed. I hope to see you soon at Shabbat worship.
Rabbi Edward Friedman