Adapting technology to enhance religious services

by Rabbi James R. Michaels

January 27, 2010

The notion of technological innovation to enhance Jewish worship services might seem a contradiction in terms to the casual observer. A Jewish religious service has a traditional format, is based on printed texts from the prayer book or from the Torah, and calls for recitation (either chanted or read) by those who are adept in synagogue skills. In the world of Jewish aging services, however, technology is often employed to make the traditional davenen (praying) and more liberal services more accessible and enjoyable to residents.

The most wide-spread use of technology is the creation of large-print prayer books. Almost every Jewish nursing home now has prayer books created expressly to suit the needs of its residents. Easily produced and inexpensive, this use of technology allows residents to use prayer books that are both light weight and accessible to the vision impaired.

Rabbi Sandra Katz, D. Min. chaplain at the Jewish Home of Rochester, NY, has created an entire series of large-print worship services for weekdays, Shabbat, holidays and Days of Awe, as well as song sheets, Shabbat dinner booklets, and a Passover Haggadah. Rabbi Katz says her custom-made prayer books serve the needs of people with vision impairment. During the worship experience, people with arthritic hands may have difficulty turning pages, so Rabbi Katz paginates the document carefully. With strategic placement of page breaks, residents are freed from turning pages in the middle of a paragraph.

Another use of this same technique is the creation of Torah reading texts for each week. Rather than require residents to hold large Humashim (texts of the Torah with appropriate prophetic readings) with small print, they can hold a few stapled pages in their hands to follow the reading in either Hebrew or English.

Another use of this same technique is the creation of Torah reading texts for each week. Rather than require residents to hold large Humashim (texts of the Torah with appropriate prophetic readings) with small print, they can hold a few stapled pages in their hands to follow the reading in either Hebrew or English.are being memorialized are projected on one wall of the synagogue. She also is exploring the use of PowerPoint to project the words of the Prayer Book or Torah reading on a screen in large print for those who cannot hold the prayer book, or for whom the letters are too small.

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