Reform synagogues have reported an encouraging response to moves to put High Holy-Day services online.
The web initiative was meant to be in preparation for a swine flu epidemic.
However, Finchley Reform Synagogue and Glasgow New Synagogue were among shuls that went ahead and streamed their Rosh Hashanah services over the web, linking to viewers across the world, including patients at the Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem.
Reform Judaism IT manager Marc Ozin explained: “The Assembly of Rabbis discussed the possibility that there would be issues during the High Holy-Days because of swine flu.
“We started working on finding a technical solution and decided a broadcast would be best. We have had loads of people thank us because they weren’t able to get to shul and watched the broadcast instead.”
Rabbi Miriam Berger of Finchley Reform said she was inspired to set up the service because her mother-in-law has an illness which prevents her from being in large crowds. “Although swine flu has not had a big effect on the community, the streaming has benefited people in ways we could have never have believed.”
Among those watching the Finchley Reform service from their home was pensioner Philip Markus, who lives in Devon, 40 miles from a synagogue and whose wife suffers from MS.
“The facility of ‘attending’ a service online is simply wonderful and extremely beneficial to personal spiritual well-being.”
Brian Teeman from Leeds watched the live streaming of the service from the North Western Reform Synagogue in Golders Green.
“I’m not a big shul go-er and wanted to be at home with my family. But when I heard they were putting services online I thought it was perfect for me and after dinner I turned my computer on and opened my machzor.
“It felt I was part of it without actually being there.”