Cross-posted to the Jewish Techs blog at The New York Jewish Week
Why shlepp your kid to the synagogue for her bat mitzvah lessons when she can dial in virtually?
A recent article in the New York Times shows how the tech savvy bar mitzvah tutors have taken to the Web to make the process more convenient for them and their students.
If dating, shopping and watching TV can be revolutionized by the Internet, why should bar and bat mitzvahs be immune? Parents who once might have turned to their local synagogue for Hebrew lessons and spiritual guidance are now turning to Google, where a quick search on “bar mitzvah” turns up sites like MyBarMitzvahTeacher.com (“the easiest way to prepare for your bar mitzvah”), barmitzvahlessons.com (“NO synagogue fees, membership dues, building fees”), and Jewish-Wedding-Rabbi.com, whose founder, Rabbi Andrea Frank, also conducts other “life cycle” ceremonies, including pet funerals.
Need to learn the prayers that precede the Torah and the accompanying haftarah readings? There are YouTube videos for that. At OneShul.org, “the world’s first community-run online synagogue,” the founders imagine Web-only bar mitzvahs, with an e-minyan, or group of 10, gathered via Skype. And they have a citation from Maimonides to prove it’s O.K.
There have always been families who bypassed synagogues for their children’s bar mitzvahs, traveling to Israel or holding a ceremony in a hotel. But, limited by geography, they generally worked with tutors who lived nearby. And while the new do-it-yourself approach has been enabled by the Web, it has its roots in demographic and attitudinal changes among American Jews, who are increasingly less likely to join synagogues, just as more of them marry outside the faith.
“Our generation doesn’t view Judaism as an obligation,” said Rabbi Jamie Korngold, aka the Adventure Rabbi, who offers an online bar mitzvah program. “It’s something that has to compete in the marketplace with everything else they have in their lives.”
No doubt, many traditionalists will find the idea of Jewish pre-teens logging in to learn their bar or bat mitzvah portion unappealing. Some will argue that part of the experience is the face-to-face tutelage with the cantor. Others will scoff at the change noting that if previous generations had to endure the hours of preparation in the synagogue, then so should today’s generation of would-be b’nai mitzvah.
Of course, many will simply note this as one more way technological innovation has changed the way synagogues do business. And if 12-year-olds can log off Facebook for a few hours a month to learn their haftarah, then that’s a good thing… isn’t it?
Read the entire NY Times article, “Bar Mitzvah Studies Take to the Web,” here.