Jewish Journal

Mrs. Smiles, You’re on the Air

by Gaby Wenig

February 26, 2004 | 7:00 pm

While the Los Angeles community has it share of rabbis and teachers who can teach a great class or two, there is always an allure of having someone come in from overseas as a special guest speaker. But now, airplanes are no longer necessary to get an overseas speaker to talk in Los Angeles. Several groups in the city, like Yeshiva of Los Angeles (YOLA) and Torah Ohr, are enticing students to Torah classes using the latest in video conferencing technology. This means that Los Angeles expatriates, like Shira Smiles, can continue giving parsha classes to people here -- even though she lives in Jerusalem. All it takes is thousands of dollars worth of equipment, a couple of satellites, a screen and some seats.

"Once you have the equipment it is really not expensive," said Rabbi Eliyahu Kin of Torah Ohr who has been using video conferencing to get speakers in Israel and France to give lectures in Los Angeles. "It's been a big success for us, and it has given us a lot of flexibility in getting speakers that many people request to hear, and we don't have to pay their flights to Los Angeles."

Kin says that he does video conferencing lectures before major holidays, and he gets about 150 people at each lecture. The Smiles YOLA lecture that The Journal attended had a smaller crowd -- about 20 people, but organizer Rabbi Daniel Grama expects that the lectures will become more popular with time.

For dates and times of the video conference lectures call Rabbi Daniel Grama at YOLA, (310) 229-0936, or Rabbi Eliyahu Kin at Torah Ohr, (323) 933-3111.

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