A little matter like the 5,000 miles temporarily separating Rabbi Pete Tobias from his religion school pupils at The Liberal Synagogue Elstree wasn't going to stop him taking the weekly service. Despite his absence from Hertfordshire on a visit to his son in Los Angeles, it was thanks to the power of the internet, and a devotion to duty which saw him rise at 4.15 am, California time, that the minister was able to lead the 15-minute service which concludes the Sunday morning sessions.
When the children and their parents entered the shul, they were astonished to see a large screen, set up by the rabbi's 18-year-old stepson, technical wizard Jonathan Levene. They were even more surprised when Rabbi Tobias appeared on-screen, via Skype, guitar in hand, live from his son's LA apartment.
"No-one was told in advance that the link-up was going to take place," said Rabbi Tobias, "just in case it didn't work. I'm told that the kids were very excited to sing along with me even though I was so very far away."
The venture's success has encouraged the community to explore similar ventures. "The possibility of a video link with our twin community in Lutsk in the Ukraine as well as transmitting services to housebound members has increased as a result," added the minister.