“Not Lost in (Cyber-) Space”

Rabbi Galit Levy-Slater, June 2018 Published in Jewish Community Chronicle (Long Beach)

My friends and members of my congregation will be the first to tell you that I am “not your grandfather’s rabbi.”

I was raised in a family and an environment that gave me an insight into the horrors of the holocaust to which few American Jewish children were exposed.

My grandfather, Judge Justin Woodward Harding (you can Google him) was the US judge portrayed by Spencer Tracy in the film, “Judgment At Nüremberg.”  From him I learned things that even with today’s knowledge are not known by many who did not live through that time.

That said, no one could have prepared me for the journey I ultimately embarked upon years later: to study to become a cantor and to have held a cantorial position for 18 years; to decide at the age of 65 to study and be ordained a rabbi; to create a new, innovative and progressive synagogue within my community.

My synagogue, Beit HaLev, is small.  There are only a handful of Jewish people who choose to be affiliated with any congregation in my community, and last year, due to several unforeseen circumstances, we had to suspend conducting “live” services in our community clubhouse.

I had been live streaming our live services in the clubhouse with inconsistent success.  The WiFi in the clubhouse often did not work. So when we were unable to do live High Holiday services because our upstairs room was inaccessible and the alternate site (my own apartment) also became inaccessible because the streets were being repaved and there was no parking, I did all the High Holidays online.

When I began this journey, no one said it would be easy.

But it is getting easier and the adventure is filled with surprises.  By happy accident – and I am often told that there are no accidents – I discovered that my live streamed Facebook Shabbat services, broadcast from my home, are viewed by people from all over the world; my live stream congregation has grown to around 130; on Yom HaShoah I had over 850.

I will have live High Holiday services this year; but I will live-stream them as well for my global cyber-space congregation.

American Jewry is facing a falling-away from many brick-and-mortar synagogues.  I hope with all my heart that the pendulum swings back one day; but there are places in our shrinking world that are seeking spirituality any way possible and if Jews in places like Uganda, Pakistan, Brazil and India can find me on their electronic devices, I will continue to bring the beauty of our religion to them any way I can.