Is Texting on Rosh Hashanah Kosher?

There was undoubtedly more texting in shul this Rosh Hashanah than in past years. In most liberal congregations, texting was likely done as discreetly as possible, often with a cellphone hidden low in one’s lap. In some congregations it might have been more overtly outside in the lobby or perhaps outside the synagogue building.

But as NY Times Miami bureau chief Lizette Alvarez wrote in a recent article, in some congregations texting was integrated into the Rosh Hashanah service. In many congregations this new form of interaction was a first.

 

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Alvarez explains that in a Miami Beach Reform congregation, congregants looked up at a big white screen and read the directions: “Pray. Write. Text.” For 90 minutes the participants used their texting thumbs to send out regrets, goals, musings and blissful thoughts for the rest of the congregation to see.

The rabbi, Amy Morrison, encouraged her parishioners rather than scolding them for texting. She said, “Take those phones out” and asked them what they needed to let go of to be “fully present?
“For young Jews in America, we are a demographic different from our parents and our grandparents,” said Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman, the director of congregational engagement for Synagogue 3000, an organization that seeks to re-energize synagogue life and re-engage young professionals. “We’re more educated, we move many more times and live further away from our family of origin, and we are single much longer, for years after college, which was never the case before.”

Rabbi Morrison explained the idea to encourage texting during the High Holy Day services: “For my generation, the generation that the service is for, prayer is not something you can find in your own life until someone helps you wrestle with it… So, “I recommended texting .”

The young rabbi grew up in a Conservative synagogue, which she said would have scoffed at the notion of a texting Rosh Hashanah service. “Services there aren’t as thought-provoking or honest or sharing, which is what I liked here,” she explained.

While progressive congregations like Morrison’s will continue to experiment with pushing the envelope and using new technology like texting and tweeting during the services, many other congregation will continue to lean toward decorum arguing that sending text messages on one’s phone for the congregation to see detracts from the respect the synagogue, Torah and services demand.

One congregant at Morrison’s Reform temple enjoyed the texting aspect of the services. She recalled, “I paid attention the whole time; that’s a problem with me, tuning it out.”
We shall see if the communal texting culture catches on in more synagogues or if rabbis will continue to ask congregants to remember to turn off their cellphones. Text or tact? Which will win out?

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Jewish Techs: The Jewish Technology Blog

This blog looks at how modern technology affects Jewish life, particularly the impact of the Internet on Jews across the globe. The Internet has made the Jewish community seem smaller. The Jewish Techs blog, written by blogger Rabbi Jason Miller (The Techie Rabbi), explores the places where Jewish culture, education and faith intersect with technology. Of course, like anything, Jews will continue to ask if technology is good or bad for the Jews – the age old question of our people. Good or bad, it is undisputed that technology has changed Jewish life. If you’re Jewish or interested in technology or both… you’ll enjoy the conversation. Thanks for reading the Jewish Techs blog.

The Techie Rabbi – Rabbi Jason Miller

Rabbi Jason Miller, the Techie RabbiJason Miller is NOT your typical rabbi. Known as the Techie Rabbi, he launched Access Computer Technology in 2010 and has grown it into a full-scale technology firm that provides social media marketing consulting and web design in addition to IT support. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary a decade ago, Rabbi Jason has made a name for himself as a popular blogger, social media expert, educator and entrepreneur. Based in Detroit, his congregation includes more than a million people who read his blog and follow him in Cyberspace. He began the Jewish Techs blog in January 2010 as the New York Jewish Week's technology expert.

An entrepreneurial rabbi and an alum of Clal's "Rabbi Without Borders" fellowship, Jason Miller is a rabbi and thought leader whose personal blog has been viewed by millions. The Detroit Free Press called him “the most tech-savvy Jewish leader" and the Huffington Post ranked him among the top Jewish Twitter users in the world. A social media expert, Rabbi Jason is a popular speaker and writer on technology and its effect on the Jewish world. He writes the "Jewish Techs" blog for The Jewish Week and the monthly "Jews in the Digital Age" column for the Detroit Jewish News.

Miller won the 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce and is one of the winners of a Jewish Influencer award from the National Jewish Outreach Program.