While I don’t remember whom I dialed when I made my first phone call, I do remember how anxious I felt. I quickly overcame my nervousness, but also quickly became sensitized to the expense. With one line in our house, personal calls were kept instrumental and short. When traveling, a person-to-person call to myself sufficed to check in and let my parents know I had landed safely or was thinking of them. As technology advanced, phones evolved from rotary to push-tone, from car phone to cell phone, and now to smartphones. The cost of calls simultaneously dropped to such an extent that unlimited calls and texts are now standard in nearly all plans with the amount of data allowed per month being the primary determinant of price. And with the leaps in functionality and the steady reduction in cost, my routines and interactions with the greater world changed with as did the greater world itself. Would I go back? No. But has it all been for the good? I would also say no.
And I feel the same about KI and Zoom. Independent of Covid, it is likely that KI would ultimately have embraced the technology, or something like it, for some occasions. As with so many societal trends, Covid has accelerated the speed of the journey on the path we were already on. Independent of halachic issues, which others are much more qualified to speak on, Zoom has clearly had many positive benefits for our community. We are able to gather together for all the services and classes that without Zoom would not have happened. And Zoom has extended our reach to those who would not have been able to attend for reasons of health, mobility, or travel even if the pandemic had never occurred.
That said, and as happy as I am to participate, and excited as I am about KI’s innovations around Zoom services, I look forward to the normality of a pre-Covid existence. I can only take about a minute of my sorry mug in the mirror in the morning; lasting through an entire service and inflicting it upon others. And while the chat function is enabled and has served as a substitute for some of the informal conversations we might have had, I miss the serendipitous discussions triggered by the parsha or the week’s news lubricated by a L’Chaim at the Kiddush Club.
Yes, going to Shul requires a bit more physical effort than opening up a browser, but I’m excited by the prospect of once again lounging around Shabbat afternoons, not Shabbat mornings! By year-end of this New Year, may we be zooming an intimate, spiritually uplifting service, from a filled KI Sanctuary.
Gordon Bennett – President, Congregation Kehillath Israel