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The Blessings of Technology

By Roz Silver


I've been wondering for the last week or so what it would have been like if the pandemic had hit before the advent of Zoom, Facebook, and Skype. It would have made a difficult situation much harder to bear.

I had never used Zoom before. By the end of March, when I finally got it loaded on my laptop after consulting Zoom support staff and a computer-savvy nephew, I was already suffering cabin fever from sheltering in place. Phone calls, hours of cable news, and binge movie sessions hardly made up for the meetings, restaurant dinners, get-togethers, and hikes that I had always taken for granted.

Of course, the Zoom meetings and services that began to fill my schedule as the weeks passed hardly meet all needs. But they helped to feed a yearning I wouldn't have predicted, the hunger for face-to-face interaction. And I began to appreciate an unsuspected advantage - the possibility of nationwide, even global connections.

I had dreaded a Passover alone. Then one Zoom seder included bicoastal participants, even a guest from Italy. A Mishkon Zoom second-night seder included longtime friends. A family seder brought together mishpacha from two Virginia cities, Arkansas, and San Mateo, as well as me in Mar Vista.

I've been particularly impressed by Mishkon Tephilo's pivot to a lavish menu of online offerings, including many organized or sponsored by the Adult Education Committee.

This past weekend, for example, I attended electronically as Rabbi Gabriel Botnick was the solo - and energetic and tuneful - officiant, standing in the otherwise-empty sanctuary, welcoming the Sabbath and, that evening, saying Havdalah.

He also held the regular Saturday morning Zoom service, but I Zoomed in as Rachel Kann led the alternative monthly Realize Paradise session, with participants from all over.

Sunday featured a lively musical performance and singalong of Hebrew and Jewish songs by member and musical educator Jeffrey Prince.

And to get the kinks out after too much sheltering, there is always 9 a.m. Sunday yoga.

Scholarly offerings have included a program on Hebrew word usage by member Rabbi David Stein, recurring Torah study (Rabbi Botnick), and Talmud study (emeritus Rabbi Dan Shevitz). An exciting new selection, a Monday evening class on the prophets by Rabbi Dan, is expected to start next week.  Mishkon devotee Shai Avital is restarting a Conversational Hebrew class for adults being Zoomed at 7 p m. on Thursdays. The class is being offered free.

Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780