In July 2018 the Beth El Board of Trustees unanimously approved the usage of Live Streaming during Shabbat and Festivals. When the conversation of live streaming began at Beth El I could not have imagined the positive feedback and first-hand stories as to its benefits. At first, we had a few community events that through the use of live streaming we were able to include members of our community not able to make it to Beth El. Then there were a number of private events, a baby naming as well as a wedding where great-grandparents were able to watch from multiple locations around the globe. Lastly, there have been funerals, where families have requested that we live stream the service for family and friends that could not make it into town.
All of this was before we made the decision to allow Shabbat and Festivals. While I was impressed by the number of viewers, it was the feedback after the Holy Days that cemented the decision. On Rosh Hashanah Day 1 we had 22 viewers and on Rosh Hashanah Day 2 we had 15 viewers, from California to New York, yet centered in the Omaha-Lincoln corridor. On Kol Nidrei we had 39 viewers and Yom Kippur 37 viewers, once again from across the country, including one viewer from Germany.
After the High Holy Days, I received emails from adult children of congregants who were able to watch their parents take part in services. I heard from grandparents who were able to watch their grandchildren read haftorah during YK Mincha. I received notes of thanks from members of our Omaha community who had to be at work, but were able to tune in and would not have otherwise been able to participate. I heard from young parents with children who were under the weather, while the kids napped mom/dad was able to tune in as opposed to missing out. I heard from individuals who grew up at Beth El and no longer have a connection to Omaha and felt compelled to tune watch, just to hear the shofar service. And I heard from a host of individuals from across the country with ties to Beth El who wanted, or needed, to be part of Yizkor at their home synagogue.
Live Streaming was never meant to take the place of synagogue attendance, it was meant to be a tool of engaging individuals ALREADY connected to Beth El, yet who could not be physically present.
In the coming weeks we will install a small camera in the back of chapel to be used for Shabbat Services. Similar to the High Holy Days, Shabbat morning services will not be recorded, but you will have the ability to tune in live (Friday at 6pm and Saturday Morning 9:30-11:30am). It is our continued hope that be leveraging this technology we can bring the love, warmth, passion and Torah of Beth El Synagogue to our members, no matter where they are in the world.