“Crisis” leads to innovation and connects virtual and in-person congregants

By Betsy Frank

Betsy Frank is UHC para-rabbinic fellow and president.

How many of you have watched the television program, Macgyver? If you have, you know Angus Macgyver can jerry rig anything and get out of a tough situation.

Well, prior to the High Holy Days we experienced a crisis, so to speak, at UHC. How, we wondered, could we provide multi-access services to our congregation?

We knew many would want to attend services for the High Holy Days in person. We also knew that many, including our one member in Virginia, could only attend services online.

So, we searched URJ forums for ideas.

Tech team to the rescue

A mic, camera and PC on the Vestry Room bima helped UHC expand its reach.

One post suggested an inexpensive camera on a mini-tripod. Amazon came through on that one. We conducted a test drive.

It worked, but those online couldn’t hear the services leader that well. So, the techies in our congregation conducted some quick research and we ordered an external microphone.

Next, we wondered, how could those attending online read aloud and have the in-person congregation hear them? External speakers attached to a notebook computer hosting the virtual Zoom audience was the answer.

The final piece was a cool-headed student rabbi who could go with the flow and help with minor glitches during services.

It all worked, and participants on-site and online were satisfied.

The sages taught us well

So, what is the lesson in our experience?

Just like the sages of Talmudic times who tried to figure out how to practice Judaism without the Temple, we had to figure out how to innovate (with a limited budget) in times of COVID.

What else can we do that is new and different? Please share your ideas.

Congregations are changing to meet the needs of a new generation. What can we do to meet those needs, while serving the needs of us more seasoned members?

Yes, the Temple is attracting new members. Let’s all work to keep our congregation relevant for everyone.


Betsy Frank


Student Rabbi Matt Derrenbacher officiated hybrid Shabbat Shuvah services Sept. 10 in the Vestry Room at UHC. Betsy helped manage the Zoom audience, Drew baked pastries for the oneg and Dick baked challah for the hamotizi.

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