BY Rabbi Dr. Moshe Dror
Over the past few years, an important new phenomenon has emerged in Jewish Life in the US and in Israel as well. That is the development, creation and fine-tuning of dozens of independent minyanim (worship services), spiritual communities, alternative worship services and all sorts of emergent religious and spiritual communities. So writes the people of Synagogue 3000 and Mechon Hadar in December, 2007. During the past years this has continued to grow and develop.
I like to use the metaphor of the Gemstone as the symbol of Jewish innovation and creativity. What I want to explore in these blogs are the different sorts of lights that shine forth from the many facets-faces of this polished brilliant, diamond gem.
The term SYN is often associated with the familiar SYNAGOGUE but there are many other possibilities. Indeed the very term SYN is a prefix from the ancient Greek that means: together, and with.
We know it from the familiar term from: SYNAGEIN- a gathering together, an assembly. This was the term used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible to indicate the Hebrew” Beth Keneseth”, House of Assembly, which has functioned well for over 2,000 years.
The “together” and the “with” now can incorporate the new world of cyberspace and the vast range of the communicopia of information technologies.
This interface of the religious faith communities and the internet has given birth to a whole host of fascinating religious and spiritual options with in the general world and Judaism as well.
Since I assume that some of this interests you–otherwise you would not be reading this… and. on line—I want to suggest some books that you may find of interest: either in reading the books, or reading their reviews in Amazon or in the vast amount of references in Google and other search engines.
1. “The Soul of Cyberspace: How New Technology is Changing Our Spiritual Lives”; Jeff Zaleski; Harper Edge; San Francisco; 1997.
2. “The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet”; Margaret Wertheim; Norton; New York; 1999.
3. “Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet”; Edited by Lorne L. Dawson and Douglas E. Cowan; Routledge; New York; 2004.
4. “Religion and Cyberspace”, Edited by Morten Hojsgaard and Margit Warburg; Routledge; London; 2005.
There are many more that are available, but these will give you a good background in the field.
I would also like to suggest what terminology I will use to begin to describe and explore what it is we are talking about.
The overwhelming majority of books and studies deal with the Christian communities, some with Buddhism online. I have found very little dealing with Judaism.
To begin with–
“Provides the interested web traveler with information about religion: doctrine, polity, organization, and belief…as well as other paraphernalia relating to ones religious traditions or quest”.
“Invites the visitor to participate in the religious dimension of life via the web, liturgy, prayer, ritual, meditation , and homiletics come together and function with the e-space itself as acting as the church, temple, synagogue ,mosque ,or grove”.
(Glenn Young, Reading and Praying Online…in Religion Online, Ed: Dawson and Cowan, page 93, 94.)
Religion online -uses the resources of the web to enhance the traditional religion of the bricks and mortar congregation.
Online Religion- uses the power of cyberspace as a sacred space in and of itself as the site for the spiritual quest.
Of course most of these alternative communities are somewhere along the line of using both the information gathering as well as the participatory aspects of the web options…plus much more.