To the Editor:
Re: "New sites make shul an online-only experience," this has to be the most ridiculous Jewish idea ever. Judaism holds time, space and things to be sacred; all that is defeated when you uplink to an Internet connection to pray. It is not meant to pray Jewishly all at once, all over the planet. That’s why some of our holidays are celebrated for seven days in Eretz Israel and eight in the diaspora. That was recognized thousands of years ago.
Time and space have meaning in Judaism. Somehow these two kids did not get that lesson in heder; just hook up, hook in and hook on.
Moreover, what’s really at stake here is community. They say they are the representatives of a community that just happens to be on the Internet. That is false. They cannot represent anything but a collection of diverse people who are attempting to pray in a Jewish way. In fact, in some situations, unless there is a minyan present (properly defined in halachah), there is no minyan. One could not say Kaddish or read the Torah or do anything that required a full quorum with physical presence in the prayer chamber.
This requirement brings real, tangible, honest-to-goodness human beings — people, remember us? — into physical contact with each other. We do this because of the benefits of brick and mortar. The Holy Temple(s) was a brick and mortar thing. So was the Tabernacle that fled slavery.
I like to consider myself to be a liberated, egalitarian Conservative Jew, but there are limits.
In our synagogue, Neveh Shalom of Portland, we once debated the propriety of using video cameras to "broadcast" Shabbat services. Fortunately the idea was voted down. It is not in keeping with the kavanah and ruach of our place. We did not, however, vote down the rabbi-directed use of a camcorder operated from one position in the sanctuary to record a bar/bat mitzvah (much to my disappoointment) — but I am still around to bring it up again, and I will.
Neil H. Goodman