Today’s post in our on-going series “Technology Meets Tradition” has to do with creating connections using technology in ways that weren’t available just a few years ago.
On the occasion of one’s 13th birthday it is common for a young Jewish teen to become a bar or bat mitzvah. The young person goes through a period of study and then leads the worship service and both reads and teaches from the Torah. It is a powerful moment made all the more special because during it the young person is surrounded by family and friends. That, however, can be a double-edged sword for it also raises the sadness and longing for family members who are not able to be present whether they are deceased or just too ill to travel. That was the case this post Saturday as one of our young people became a Bat Mitzvah. She desperately wanted her grandfather to be at the the service but he was not physically able to make the trip.
The Bat Mitzvah’s mother had told me about the situation a week prior. I told her we could take care of that and, while it would not be perfect, it would definitely be better than nothing. I explained to her that we had been laying the groundwork for being able to stream worship services over the internet and it was close to being completed. If we could get it up and running in time, I told her, we would. At the least, however, he could listen to the service over a calling system we have been using for a number of years.
A friend and community member spent a few hours on Thursday and Friday getting the system right and, sure enough, we were able to get the streaming up and running. The girl’s grandfather was able to watch the service while it happened. At one point during the service, in fact, I stopped and asked the Bat Mitzvah to wave to her grandfather so that he could really be part of the service… even though he was miles away watching on his computer screen.
(I should note that this would not be possible where we in a Conservative or Orthodox synagogue were are using such technology on the Sabbath is prohibited. Being a synagogue affiliated with the progressive Reform movement, however, we have more flexibility in this area.)
I remember when I was growing up that Bell telephone had a commercial that said “it’s the next best thing is to be here”. It would have been great if he could have been with us to celebrate. Watching on a computer screen isn’t the same. But if the choice is between not being involved at all or watching on a screen, I’ll take the screen. It may not be the same, but it sure is “the next best thing to being there”. Just another place where… “technology meets tradition”.