Rabbis Robert Barr and Laura Baum who lead Congregation Beth Adam in Loveland, Ohio, are the founding rabbis for the new Web site, OurJewishCommunity.org.
Barr founded Beth Adam 28 years ago and with Baum taking the lead on the Web site, it launched Sept. 1 after six months of planning.
It is meant to serve as a social networking site for Jews around the world. Because congregations are seeing a decline in membership numbers, Baum said this seemed like a logical solution.
“We started the site because we recognized that synagogues are not attracting as many members as they can,” she said. “We recognize that people’s experiences are growing online and they are doing social networking. It (the Web site) can be in addition to or in place of a typical congregation experience.”
Beth Adam is an unaffiliated congregation, which is working with OurJewishCommunity.org. Since it’s launch, the Web site has already registered 60 individuals and has had more than 300 visitors.
One of the most unique features of the Web site is the option for registered users to watch Beth Adam’s Rosh Hashana services live on the Internet. The site will show a live feed during Monday night’s service at 8:15 p.m., and then Tuesday’s morning service at 10:30 a.m.
The videos of the service will also be saved and logged on the Web site, so that viewers can watch them later on.
For those with physical disabilities or all others who are unable to attend their congregation’s services, Baum said the Web site is the next best thing.
While she believes that it’s important to have a congregation to go to, she knows it’s not possible for everyone.
“I hope that people can find a community where they are comfortable with a congregation,” she said. “ But I would much rather them have a High Holiday experience rather than having no High Holiday experience.”
With our culture constantly changing and becoming more technological, this is just one way to stay with the times.
“Judaism has survived and thrived because of its ability to evolve and modernize, Baum said.”
“I think the reality is that the Jewish community is radically changing,” Barr said. “Sixty percent of the Jewish community is unaffiliated today.”
Barr explained that people aren’t staying put anymore, and this is a way for people to stay connected to their community.
“The younger Jewish community is extremely mobile,” Barr said. “They want to remain connected to a community special to them.”
There is no fee to join the Web site, which is constantly being updated with new features.
Most recently, forums were added to the site, allowing users to discuss topics concerning Jewish life and Israel.
“The site is still a work in progress,” Baum said. “We’re trying things and getting people’s feedback. We want active participation.”
There are only plans to show Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services online currently, however, depending on the interest in the High Holiday broadcasts, the Web site might begin to broadcast weekly Shabbat services.
(Mike Zoller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)