How Faith Groups Are Bringing Sermons to Screens This Holiday Season - Rabbi Rachel Weiss ('09) | Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

How Faith Groups Are Bringing Sermons to Screens This Holiday Season - Rabbi Rachel Weiss ('09)

News

Produced by Blair Paddock

Originally published and aired by WTTW / PBS Chicago on Dec. 7, 2021

View full television segment here.

Hanukkah and Christmas are held during some of the shortest days of the year — meaning, they’re also the darkest.

But these holidays offer light through menorahs and advent candles, and now, due to the pandemic, the glow of a computer screen.

Typically, these holidays are celebrated in groups of family and friends, but with COVID-19 cases on the rise, faith groups have had to push their celebrations online.

Rachel Weiss, a senior rabbi at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, said her congregation has created meaningful ways to celebrate the holiday online. Together, they’ll be cooking latkes together, watching movies and lighting candles virtually.

“Because we do it on Zoom, we have windows into everyone’s homes and it’s incredibly moving to be able to see candles lit all over,” Weiss said. “It’s like windows into 100 different sanctuaries.”

With celebrations being held outside of the synagogue, people have a unique opportunity to explore their faith, Weiss said. It’s allowed them to see how they can create Jewish rituals that are meaningful in their daily lives.

“I have officiated at this point over a dozen Zoom bar, bat and brit mitzvahs in which we mark this ritual of becoming a Jewish adult,” Weiss said. “It’s really a marker of Jewish values that a 13-year-old gives up something that they want for the greater good of the community.”

Shawna Bowman, a pastor at Friendship Presbyterian Church, is also shifting gears for the holiday. The congregation is having people sign up to carol, do a table reading of a Christmas pageant and light candles for Christmas Eve — all virtually. Moving completely online has allowed the church to embrace new ways of learning different technologies they might have not used otherwise.

“I think that it’s not uncommon to make jokes about the church being the last to adapt and that sometimes we are resistant because we’re fearful of what we might lose,” Bowman said. “There’s an intimacy to online gatherings—in  a way you’re face-to-face. Like with passing the peace, there’s a participatory piece that you don’t get in the church.”

While holiday celebrations during the pandemic present challenges, Weiss says, they also offer opportunities for people to come together and bring more light into the world.

“Whether we’re putting up Christmas lights or lighting Hanukkah candles, they’re all about taking risks in the darkness and I think that’s such a poignant message for right now,” Weiss said.

More News

College News

Dynamic Hebrew Bible Scholar to Lead Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Amanda Beckenstein Mbuvi, Ph.D., has been named the next vice president for academic affairs at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) outside Philadelphia. Mbuvi (she/her), a scholar of Hebrew Bible, brings to this role a wealth of academic, administrative and nonprofit leadership experience.

News
College News

Sharon Kleinbaum, RRC '90, rabbi of New York City LGBTQ synagogue, picked to rejoin US religious freedom commission

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who has led New York City’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah since 1992, is one of President Joe Biden’s choices to join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

News
College News

Rabbi Emily Cohen ('18) Rabbi Connecting Jews on the Margins

I’m grateful to be a tech native since that has vastly improved my ability to do my work via Zoom and phone this year, but in some ways it feels like this first year will have been the warm up to my proper entry into the West End community. 

News
College News

The Naval petty officer who found her rabbinic legs at sea — Rabbinical Student Kanaan Goldstein

Goldstein chose to affiliate with the Reconstructionist Judaism movement and enroll in its seminary, because she felt it was “the only school for me because it is aligned with my values as a human being. Its policy on interfaith relations, Jewish blood lines, attitudes towards inclusivity and diversity – it made me feel that this is the school where I belong.”

News
College News

Kol hakavod Rabbi Miriam Geronimus ('21)

Geronimus chose to pursue rabbinic studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinic College because of its combined focus on Jewish history, culture, and spirituality. As a longtime spiritual seeker with an academic orientation, she found the rabbinic program that would work for her. She particularly appreciated the RRC’s emphasis on practical rabbinics.

News
College News

Rabbi returns home to become health care chaplain - Rabbi Rachel Davidson ('21)

For Cleveland native Rabbi Rachel Davidson, the road to chaplaincy is leading right back to Cleveland as a chaplain resident at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center near University Circle. “When I had the calling to the rabbinate, I felt specifically really pulled to becoming a health care chaplain,” Davidson told the Cleveland Jewish News June 21. “To become a chaplain, you need training after seminary, so I’m starting that next level of training.”

News
College News

Incoming rabbi looks forward to meeting congregants in person - Rabbi Mikey Hess Webber ('21)

Rabbi Mikey Hess Webber has served as Columbia Jewish Congregation’s rabbinic intern for nearly a year and is now about to become the congregation’s new rabbi and spiritual leader, but she has yet to meet her new congregation face to face.

News
College News

Rabbi Michael Perice ('20) Shares Experience of Opiate Addiction to Help Others

Rabbi Michael Perice, a 2020 RRC graduate, recently told his congregation the story of his four-year struggle with opioid addiction and his celebration of 10 years of sobriety. His motive: to break down the stigma of addiction and inspire others to get help. 

News
College News

On Juneteenth, Joy and Grief Mingle for Black Jews - Rabbinical Student Koach Frazier

When Koach Baruch Frazier prepares their seder plate, they nestle beets next to okra, blackeyed peas, eggs boiled in hibiscus tea, hot red peppers, baked sweet potato and cornbread, all arranged in a plate set next to a kiddush cup fizzing with red soda, in observance of Juneteenth.

News
College News

New Sacred Music Inspired By COVID - Rabbinical Student, Solomon Hoffman

Solomon Hoffman’s foray into COVID sacred music came out of his experience as a hospital chaplain in New York City during the height of the virus’s outbreak.

News
College News

The Forward Spotlights Rabbi Darby Leigh ('08)

“This has been 1000% my experience,” he continued. “I have continuously been aware on a daily basis of living in a society that is not set up to meet my needs. But this is true for so many people – gay, trans-, bi-. If you’re a person of color here you are not living in a world set up for you. If you are a person with a disability you know this society was not set up for you”

News
College News

Film chronicles the work of Rabbi Kevin Hale ('97)

The film follows the work that Hale, the Northampton rabbi, does to restore two Torahs that were among nearly 1,600 scrolls saved in Prague, capital of what was then Czechoslovakia, after World War II. Workers in a Jewish museum in the city had stored Torahs and other valuables from synagogues that had been shut down following the German occupation.

News
College News

Reconstructionist congregations partner across the miles - Rabbi Nitkin-Kaner ('16) and Rabbi Weissman ('17)

Little did these two rabbinical students imagine that within a decade they would bring together their Reconstructionist congregations — one located in Ann Arbor and one in Attleboro, Massachusetts — for joint worship services and holiday celebrations on a platform called Zoom.

News
College News

The Well & Jewish News’ 36 Under 36: Rabbi Ari Witkin ('19)

The great joy of his job is supporting Metro Detroiters leadership in the work of building and strengthening our community. In addition to his role at Federation, he currently serves as the part-time rabbi of Temple Beth Israel in Bay City.

News
College News

Rabbi Shira Stutman ('07): Hanukkah celebrates a Jewish victory, but this year the rebuilding matters more

It’s about that moment immediately after the Jews won — when, surveying the damage in their country and among their people, they realized how much work there was still to be done, and then chose to get up and start doing it. It is, in other words, the perfect allegory for the United States in 2020.

News