This year the Jewish Television Network will webcast Wilshire Boulevard Temple's entire Kol Nidre service, the first time viewers will be able to watch such a service live over the Internet.
"Whether you're in Peoria, Tokyo, Ramat Gan or Addis Ababa ... all you have to do is be near a computer," said Jay Sanderson, CEO of the Jewish TV network, which will air the program.
The Kol Nidre prayer, the spiritual and emotional centerpiece of the High Holy Days, is traditionally chanted before a standing assembly. Sanderson predicts that this year, some of those hearing Kol Nidre will be sitting in the far reaches of the world in front of their laptops.
"Yom Kippur is the most observed Jewish Holiday of the year," said Sanderson." Now everyone, no matter what religion or denomination, will be able to observe the most beautiful and provoking traditions of the Jewish people in a completely new and untraditional way."
JTN will also offer High Holy Day instruction, advice and even cooking tips on its recently remodeled broadband Web site. Its effort is just one of a few recent attempts to reach out to those who can't or don't care to attend High Holy Day services.
When a congregant of Creative Arts Temple was hospitalized last year, founder Rabbi Jerry Cutler and his wife, Jeff, produced a DVD so that the ailing member could watch the Yom Kippur Kol Nidre service, even though he could not be at the synagogue.
Expanding on that idea, the Cutlers have made more than 50 copies of the "shut-in" DVD so that Jews in rest homes, assisted-living facilities and hospitals, as well as soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, can also enjoy a 48-minute version of the service.
Of the two, the Creative Arts program may be the less conventional service. The congregation hails itself as "unorthodox," and has many non-Jewish members, among them Jon Voight, Paula Prentiss and Anne Meara, all of whom make presentations in the service. The Rev. Vince Connor, who is a longtime friend of Cutler, also gives a speech at the end of the DVD. So unorthodox is the synagogue that Cutler's sermon has been eliminated. "We figured the others were more entertaining than me," Cutler said.
Voight's speech is perhaps the most moving, particularly when he says that he has always been "in awe of the Jewish people," who, he says, have been scapegoated throughout history because Jews are "the conscience of the world."
Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis, which will help distribute the DVDs, called the production a "positive development." He added, "People are lonely this time of year."
Check out The Jewish Television Network webcast of Wilshire Boulevard Temple's Kol Nidre service at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 21 at www.jewishtvnetwork.com. Creative Arts Temple will distribute DVDs through Sept. 21 and will hold its Yom Kippur service this year at Beverly Hills High School. For more information, call (323) 965-1818 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org