As the High Holiday sermons approach, congregations prepare for a large influx of attendants of all levels of observance. But sadly, not everyone is physically capable of attending those services.
Fortunately, some congregations are working to make their services more readily available for those with limited accessibility. Temple Solel in Paradise Valley is expecting more than 1,000 people from all over the world to be tuning into their services via livestream technology.
Cantor Todd Herzog of Temple Solel said that the temple has been livestreaming its sermons since 2013. Through the livestreaming, they were able to expand their Shabbat experience.
“It allows people who are not able to make it to services to connect and feel part of the congregation,” Herzog said. “It allows family members to participate in b’nai mitzvah services when they are far away or unable to travel. It allows us to share what’s going on at Solel with a far broader audience. Also, the streams are all archived, so the family can have a record of their celebration.”
Herzog monitors the viewership for the livestreaming each week and said that the congregation expects around 500 additional viewers for every High Holiday service that will be streamed.
Herzog said that livestreaming has received a positive response from the community. According to Herzog, there are an estimated 250 viewers a week who watch the services through streamspot.com.
StreamSpot — which was founded in 2010 — specializes in streaming capabilities for multiple platforms. Several synagogues nationwide utilize the site to share their services with more people.
Congregation Beth Israel also streams their Friday night Shabbat sermons through StreamSpot, but will not be doing so for their upcoming High Holiday services. However, parts of the sermon will later be uploaded to the congregation’s YouTube channel.
Temple Solel’s services can also be viewed live on the temple’s Facebook page through the website’s own livestreaming platform, Facebook Live. Facebook is also where the past year of livestreams can be found as well as other videos the temple uses to promote itself.
Using social media is commonplace for most congregations, but livestreaming the sermons allows worshipers to be a part of Temple Solel regardless of how far away they are.
“It’s exciting to be able to cater to the community by meeting them where they are instead of expecting everyone to be able to show up every week at the temple,” said Temple Solel’s engagement specialist, Jacquelyn Null. “Some of our congregants are snowbirds and only live in Arizona in the cooler months. By having a livestream, everyone is able to feel like they can keep up with what is happening at the temple.”
At last year’s Yom Kippur morning contemporary service, 300 people watched on Facebook. The viewer with the top comment said he was watching from South Africa.
In addition to the livestreaming, Temple Solel is continuing to expand its tech abilities and platforms to try and reach more people.
“We recently started a podcast of the sermons delivered during our Shabbat services,” said the executive director of Temple Solel, Peter Pishko. “The podcast is currently available on 10 platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. We’re just starting out but have subscribers from across the country.”
For Herzog, the use of livestreaming is more than just another way for the congregation to reach people.
“This technology gives us the opportunity to reach a broader audience with our services,” Herzog said. “It helps to preserve a historical record of the events we have hosted and created here at Temple Solel. It allows us to share messages from the rabbis on different platforms and provides access to people who otherwise would never have been able to experience our services.” JN