The current discussion on the OHALAH list with regard to streaming and recording the services at next year’s kallah has been interesting to follow.
Preface: A Little History
For many years, my portfolio in ALEPH included the ALEPH ReSources Catalog. One of the things I really wanted to offer were recordings of live services so that people who were interested in Jewish Renewal could at least listen to a real service and get some idea of what davvenen meant to us. For a time, the catalog offered recordings of a service at Shir Tikvah in Michigan and the davvenen at the 75th birthday weekend for Reb Zalman z”l at B’nai Jeshurun in New York. We also offered “studio’ recordings from P’nai Or of Philadelphia and Reb Zalman’s Audio Siddur (which is the only one still available from the ALEPH catalog).
Of course, this was before live streaming and the video recording which is really inseparable from the streaming itself.
Many years ago, I remember Reb Arthur Waskow saying something like: We didn’t create Jewish Renewal as an outreach program. We created it to save our own Jewish souls which could find no home in the Jewish community. I know that in this age, promotion and self-branding are considered absolute necessities to be vigorously pursued, otherwise no one will notice you nor will it be possible to acquire funding. Yet, this tension has always been part of our endeavour and, for the most part, we have chosen to remain true to who we really are: people committed to a spiritual view of [Jewish] life which carries with it a transformational vision for a paradigm shifting world even if that “costs” us. Somehow, we have met our expenses, our programs continue to grow, and we still have fun in spite of the seriousness of our and the world’s situation.
I think that there is a big difference between the live streaming and recording which a community like Romemu does and the same at Kallah. The arguments in favour of this streaming have been made clearly and powerfully in the OHALAH discussion and I don’t need to repeat them here, other than to say that both Hanna and I have watched the Romemu recordings and found them meaningful spiritual and learning experiences.
But I see the Kallah in a different frame. For me, the Kallah is the time when the tribe gathers, welcomes new members, renews relationships, and lets the love of learning and prayer be unashamedly and enthusiastically expressed. So I suggest that, regardless of how we might want to word our responses in halachic or Integral Halachic language, that this is not really a halachic issue. Rather, I would frame it as the Kallah belonging to the attendees and that no one should have to be concerned with how they might look to strangers who might watch at some later date. Nor is it about allowing for different options, since both Friday night services have usually included musical instruments and it’s a slippery slope to start creating options to satisfy sub-sets of attendees.
So my suggestion is to view Kallah and local congregational services as two different things. Let the kallah be for those who come (many of whom will likely record all or part of most things anyway) and let individual congregations decide to stream or not for the benefit of their own members and those who will find them on line (and who will donate something to help the shul cover the costs of providing this opportunity).