Religion

Online Passover meal Links Jews Around The World

A Passover Seder at the click of a button.

This Passover, there will be a new way to celebrate the holiday that marks Jews’ freedom from ancient Egypt. While many will have friends and family in their homes for a Seder meal — the celebratory meal of Passover — technology is providing another option.

You can be in front of your computer and share the Seder meal with people from around the world. The online Seder is 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday, accessed through OurJewishCommunity.org.

Passover begins at sundown Monday.

“Nothing can truly match the sheer joy of attending a Passover seder in person. And yet, for those who cannot attend a seder, an online seder is the next best thing to being there,” said Rabbi Jeff Salkin of Temple Israel in Columbus. “We haven’t yet figured out how the new technologies and social networking are going to affect Jewish life. One thing is certain: The genius of Judaism has been its infinite capacity to adapt itself to changing realities.”

Using webinar technology, the rabbis of OurJewishCommunity.org will lead parts of the Seder by reading from the Haggadah, a text that outlines the Passover story. Online participants can sign up ahead of time to participate as readers. Graphics and illustrations will be on the screen.

Eating and tweeting

The online Seder will use a Haggadah that was written by Congregation Beth Adam in Cincinnati. This award-winning Haggadah creates a Passover ritual that is meaningful, relevant, and appropriate for all modern day Jews, according to OurJewishCommunity.org.

It provides direction for beginners and comfort for seasoned participants as they celebrate Passover.

Last year, Rabbi Laura Baum tweeted two Passover Seders on Twitter.

“As I was heading out to a seder last year, I saw someone tweet ‘is anyone tweeting the Seder?’ So I made a quick decision that I would,” Baum said in a statement. “Many people participated, some of whom did not have a Seder to attend locally.”

Rabbi Baum works to engage Jews through social media and other technology. “Baum’s Blog” is a central feature of OurJewishCommunity.org as are Rabbi Baum’s YouTube podcasts. An expert on social media and the changing needs of the Jewish community, Rabbi Baum has created a new model for engaging those seeking a new way to connect to Judaism.

Baum said that OurJewishCommunity.org reaches out to thousands of unaffiliated Jews and others who are looking for a meaningful connection to Judaism, but had not previously found one. She added: “We seek to bring Judaism to people where they are.”

OurJewishCommunity.org is the world’s first progressive online synagogue. Since its launch in September 2008, the site has video-streamed holiday services. Hundreds of people tune in each week to watch the Shabbat (Sabbath) service, which is integrated into Facebook so participants can chat with each other during services.

“It is amazing to see the community that has been built through OurJewishCommunity.org,” Rabbi Robert B. Barr of OurJewishCommunity.org said in a statement. “People see us as their rabbis, OurJewishCommunity.org as their synagogue and the other online participants as their community.”

“Passover is a holiday that is widely celebrated because it is observed in the home,” Baum added. “Passover is the perfect opportunity for people to share resources and ideas online. Now, they can even interact with others celebrating Passover online using the tools of technology.”

Barr is the founding rabbi of Congregation Beth Adam in Cincinnati. Under his leadership for the last 29 years, Beth Adam has grown from six members to more than 300. The congregation has a significant voice and is a resource for liberal Jews worldwide. Rabbi Barr first imagined the online congregation and has played a continuing role in its development, including his weekly podcasts (“Barr’s Banter”) which are available on iTunes.

In addition to the “Seder Around the World,” Rabbi Baum will tweet a Seder on Monday at the Twitter handle @RabbiBaum. TheOurJewishCommunity.org Web site features Passover information, activities and a Facebook application that allows users to design a matzah ball character. Also on the site are six audio podcasts about Passover and four short videos including “Uncle Jay Explains Passover,” a “Passover Seder in three Minutes” and a “Chocolate Passover Seder.”

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