In my memory, there has never been so much Jewish content available online, for free. Podcasts, interviews, seminars, webinars, zoom rooms, concerts, and lectures (did I cover everything?) are just a click away. Many synagogues are successfully navigating uncharted waters by developing engaging online content. Others are still struggling with the technological challenges.
The big question is whether this new mode of participating in Jewish content will take up residence in our future, and if so, will connections with our on-screen communities supersede those IRL (in real life?).
This issue has come up often in online conversations with friends. Helene and I discussed this in an email exchange and I could sense her passion about this issue so I invited her to be a guest blogger.
Why renew your synagogue membership?
by Helene Geiger
I have a friend who has been spending his Quarantine touring virtual services around the world. He often tells me all the different ways that our Temple’s minyans and shabbat services fall short, when compared to the production values at (fill in the blank: Central Synagogue/White Plains/Park Avenue/Wilshire Blvd/etc etc). It’s almost to the point where he’ll link into one location for Lcha Dodi, and a different one for Yigdal.
He also tells me that he is currently questioning the value of his synagogue membership. “Because of Covid, I won’t even get my High Holiday seats this year,” he complains.
True. But surely he’s missing the point. Because joining a synagogue is more than finding a place to daven – it’s about being part of a community. And in this time of Covid, the value of community has never been so evident. In fact, in this time when so many of us feel isolated far away from friends and families, our local synagogue community has stepped up – creating new opportunities to come together virtually, to connect on a human-to-human level.
As my friend sees it, a synagogue is just one more URL competing for his business. And all he is doing is comparison shopping – looking for the very best available singing and oratory on the market. But to my mind, he’s using the wrong metric to measure “quality”. Surely there is a value to truly belonging. And surely you are kidding yourself if you think you “belong” to is a place that doesn’t know you & doesn’t particularly want to know you. If all you are doing is streaming – you can watch, but they’ve muted your audio, your video, and also your soul.
Covid has caused all of us to distance physically. But socially, our local synagogue is more connected than ever. Zoom into our services, book clubs, learning programs, volunteer committees – and you won’t be anonymous. Participate, chat, ask questions – this is your chance to get known by other congregants whom you might never have met before. They’re zoomed-in because they want to connect, eager to catch up with old friends and build new relationships, as well. And because you are part of their community, they are eager to get to know you, eager to play Jewish Geography with you, and eager to share their experiences/knowhow/resources with you, too.
Why am I renewing my synagogue membership this year? Because my synagogue is my community. It’s where I am valued. It’s where I connect. And it’s where I belong, in the truest sense of the word.