Earlier this month, United Hebrew Congregation began broadcasting its Friday night Shabbat services live from its website at www.unitedhebrew.org. Anyone who has access to a computer and cannot physically be in attendance can simply log in and view and hear services led by Senior Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg, Rabbi Roxanne J.S. Shapiro and Cantor Ron Eichaker. Musician Rick Recht also took part in the most recent Friday night Light Up Shabbat service.
"This past Friday evening was our second week streaming live and the responses are amazing," said Cantor Eichaker. "With little fanfare people have logged on and told us how wonderful the opportunity to view a service live. We have people in the hospital who could hear their names mentioned in our prayer for healing.
"Families who were out of town were able to celebrate Shabbat from their hotel rooms and this past Shabbat a family got stuck in traffic on an interstate and were able to catch the service on their iPhone."
He added that much of the inspiration to install this new technology had to do with members of United Hebrew in Joplin, Mo. which was devastated by a tornado last May. Although that congregation is not affiliated with the St. Louis one other than in spirit (and name), Eichaker traveled to Joplin after the May 22 tornado and helped lead services.
"I promised everyone there that we would not forget them," said Eichaker, adding that he began doing regular Saturday morning Torah services with UH congregants in Joplin via Skype beginning last October. "When we first went live (with webcasting) on Feb. 3, I asked our congregation to give a shout out to the folks in Joplin watching us right now. I asked (my congregants) to wish them a Shabbat shalom and the whole congregation did so."
Eichaker said the ability to do these live-streaming broadcasts was made possible through a generous donation by UH congregants Deane and Fancine Thompson. "This has been our vision for quite some time," said the cantor. "I brought up the idea many years ago but the funding wasn't there. But then the Thompsons stepped forward and said they wanted to make this happen."
Eichaker explained that making this happen is costly. Special hardware is needed, and the temple's circuitry wasn't compatible with this hardware, which meant some new wiring. The broadcasts also require a high-definition, motorized camera, directional microphone and module hardware to convert the video and audio into the appropriate format, all of which was quite expensive.
"The set-up goes into the five figures," said Eichaker. "Our Internet abilities were not up to par for broadcasting so we needed to set up another DSL line that was dedicated to the part of our building where the sanctuary is."
There is no cost to anyone watching the services. "It's like watching YouTube," said Eichaker. "Just go to our website and click on the button where it says to watch our Shabbat services live."
Eichaker expects that by summer, the second phase of this technology-wiring UH's chapel-will be completed and hopefully in another year, two more additional cameras will be added to the sanctuary.
"We are tackling this in small steps," said Eichaker. "We want to create a culture of awareness for it, then we can do enhancements. We want to make sure that there aren't problems for people logging on because we want them to come back again and again."
Eichaker said he knows of only a handful of synagogues throughout the United States that are live-streaming services. In the future, he expects those who cannot attend life-cycle events at UH, perhaps because they live out-of-town or are not physically able, to watch and feel apart of the occasion with this technology.
Remembering Mrs. Goldberg
Speaking of a shout out, Jewish Light staffers would like to extend condolences to the family of Shirley Dunie Goldberg, who was a reference librarian and did other jobs for more than four decades at the University City Library.
Mrs. Goldberg died Saturday, Feb. 11, at her home at the Brentmoor Retirement Community in University City. She was two weeks shy of her 93rd birthday. Services will be held at noon Friday (Feb. 17) at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Avenue.
Mrs. Goldberg was a member of the family that ran Dunie's Restaurant and Deli downtown and a 1936 graduate of University City High School. She also graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Washington University in 1940 with a major in English and a minor in French.
In addition to a love of literature, Mrs. Goldberg was a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan and an able cook known for her delicious brisket.
Mrs. Goldberg was preceded in death by her husband Samuel. Surviving are her daughters, Donna (Richard) Shatz of Richmond Heights, Harriet (Anna Navarro) Blickenstaff of Olivette, and Judy Goldberg of St. Louis; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Humane Society of Missouri, Central Reform Congregation or the University City Library.