Your Dollars at Work: Remote religion ramps up during pandemic thanks in part to UJFT zooming in with tech support to local synagogues

by | Apr 22, 2021 | Other News

In the digital-turned-remote age of work and worship, every single dollar makes a difference. Five synagogues in the area received funds from United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund of the Tidewater Jewish Community to upgrade and purchase equipment needed for a richer remote religious experience, including Congregation Beth El, Kempsville Conservative Synagogue, Ohef Sholom Temple, Temple Emanuel, and Temple Israel.

Kempsville Conservative Synagogue, KBH, received grant money from UJFT before the High Holidays enabling an investment in equipment needed to share High Holiday and Shabbat services with members and guests via Zoom.

“These were members who would not, otherwise, have been able to attend due to reduced seating availability to maintain social distancing during the height of the pandemic; as well as members who chose to continue to self-isolate,” says KBH Chazzan M. David Proser.

Ohef Sholom Temple had the capability to conduct Shabbat Services, meetings, and programs virtually, but major expenses were incurred to conduct virtual High Holidays.

“UJFT support helped make it possible to video tape and stream our holiday services, and allowed the Ohef Sholom Temple membership, unaffiliated Jews, and other community members to connect to each other, and to our extended Temple family,” says Linda Peck, executive director. “And, funds from UJFT allowed our Religious School to upgrade its ‘Zoom’ capabilities so we could continue to educate our children virtually,”

KBH used UJFT funds to purchase two laptop computers, cameras, and a tripod which enabled them to focus its Zoom stream simultaneously on both the upper bema and ark, and the lower bema where the Cantor chanted services. The computer monitors enabled prayer leaders to see who was joining via Zoom and include them on various occasions.

“Even after a return to ‘normalcy,’ we see Zoom staying as part of our services and programming to encourage those who can’t be with us in person to maintain contact with all synagogue events,” says Proser. “We are certainly grateful to the UJFT for its generous funding at a time when we really needed it.”

When the pandemic hit last March, the collective religious community tackled a revolving door of challenging logistical obstacles to religious events.

“Jews are a gathering people who gain strength, solace, and inspiration from being in proximity to one another,” says Peck. “How to do so during the pandemic? We were blessed with UJFT’s financial support that helped us afford the tools to address these issues.”

This is part of a series of articles spotlighting local and overseas partner agencies that are beneficiaries of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s annual Community Campaign.

– Lisa Richmon