TBI first synagogue to stream regular services online

Temple Beth Israel has become the first synagogue in Australia to introduce technology to stream its services online.


The decision to install the technology at Temple Beth Israel in St Kilda was taken during a recent upgrade to the synagogue's audio visual system.

Rabbi Gersh Lazarow said while the upgrade was in progress there were congregants who had family members unable to join them at a celebration.

"We sat around the table and said 'really it's 2015, can't we send this out live over the web?'," Rabbi Lazarow told 774 ABC Melbourne's Red Symons.

"None of us could find a good answer to say no, so we've done it."

The streaming service, called TBI Live, is available via the synagogue's website.

Rabbi Lazarow said the service would make a big difference to people who were unable to be at the synagogue due to geography or physical inability.

He said streaming Shabbat services online could also help to widen the broader community's understanding of the Jewish faith.

"It allows people who have an interest or a curiosity or just want to learn more about the world to be able to connect and see what services are like," he said.

"We live in a world where 'the other' is not particularly well-known and if a little bit of technology can help us demystify, then it's a great gift and we should take it for what it is."

Going to shul is a social occasion as well as a religious one, and Temple Beth Israel has been careful to reflect that in their web service.

"We haven't miked the congregation because that would be slightly disruptive, but yes there was a very clear commitment to putting a comment box on the live video feed so that people could chat away whilst watching from the privacy of their homes," said Rabbi Lazarow.

While Orthodox Jews were unlikely to use the service, Rabbi Lazarow said as a progressive synagogue there was "not a great degree of orthodoxy" within their congregation.

"They're noticed and recognised, but they're probably only 10 per cent of Melbourne's Jewish community," said Rabbi Lazarow.

He hopes Jews using the streaming service will still observe Shabbat.

"If people really are looking for the best way to not observe Shabbat but join in services, it would probably be whilst driving your car, streaming it through your phone, going to a non-kosher restaurant for dinner," said Rabbi Lazarow.

"That's not what we're trying to do."

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