Friday, September 28, 2012

Beth El Streams Yom Kippur Services (Stamford Advocate)

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman at Temple Beth El is setting up a service to webcast the high holy day services including Tuesday's Yom Kippur service to shut ins. He poses with the camera on Monday September 24, 2012 in Stamford, Conn. Photo: Dru Nadler / Stamford Advocate Freelance

\STAMFORD -- On Sept. 17, Stanley Darer, 78, had a chance to watch morning Rosh Hashana services at Temple Beth El via a laptop from his room at the Waveny Care Center in New Canaan.
His wife, Susan Darer, 74, who participated in the service as a singer with the New World Chorus, said her husband, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, sang, cried and moved from side to side during the webcast. His reaction, she said, was especially emotional to the blast of the shofar, an instrument carved from a ram's horn that is blown to symbolize the arrival of the Jewish New Year.
"I thought it would be great for him to watch, and he obviously related to the music and the service because it brought back some things from the past," Darer said. "It was ideal to have a live link."
On a business trip, Susan Darer's son, John Darer, of Stamford also followed the morning Rosh Hashanah services at Temple Beth El on Sept. 17 via his iPad, watching his mother sing.
The virtual connection to Stamford helped offset some disappointment of not being able to be home for the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the High Holy Days, the 51-year-old John Darer said.
"I travel a fair amount and whether it is something like this for a service, or another type of program I might miss, I think it shows an awareness by Temple Beth El of a need," he said. "You often see soldiers fighting in Iraq connecting with their families via video streams, and of sporting events, so why not religious services?"
On Tuesday, Temple Beth El on Roxbury Road will webcast the Kol Nidre service to mark the beginning of Yom Kippur, a strict 25-hour final stretch in the 10 days of atonement and self-reflection that ring in the New Year, Rabbi Joshua Hammerman said. The service begins at 6:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, those with the Web link will be able to see inside the synagogue as Jews pray from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., when Hammerman will lead a memorial service and concluding ceremony that will run until after 7 p.m.
To limit glitches during this trial run, Hammerman said access to the link will be limited to Stamford, Norwalk, and Greenwich hospitals and some other congregants who have requested it, but he foresees offering open access to view weekly Sabbath services online, as well as major milestones like bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs and funerals.
"I've always wanted to create a synagogue without walls, and I do see the potential that it can bridge barriers, and one of those boundaries is geographical and the fact we don't all have to be in the same building to be praying to the same God," Hammerman said.
While the concept of streaming services online and archiving them has been around awhile, Hammerman said, until recently the technology has been too expensive to use regularly.
"There are many times this might be beneficial like for bar mitzvahs when a relative is too old to travel or grandparents are in Florida for the winter let's say," Hammerman said. "My sister lives in Israel, so I can imagine what it is like when families are spread out for the High Holy Days, which is a time more than anytime else people have to be with their community."
The fast and observance of Yom Kippur ends after nightfall Wednesday with a meal to break the fast, which typically includes round foods like eggs and challah, a Jewish bread baked in a round shape.
"The idea is that after our little brush with death through the fast and denying our physical needs, we return to the land of the living with renewed enthusiasm," Hammerman said.
Staff Writer Martin B. Cassidy can be reached at or at 203-964-2264.

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