Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

The temple of Zoom (Video Conferencing) is upon us


March 27, 2020

The new coronavirus, aka COVID 19, is upon the world. It happened so quickly that our Jewish leaders had to react: No coming to temple. Adhere to the guidelines limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. Exercise social distancing.

The following is information on what some synagogues are doing and where to look for services online, information on b’nai mitzvahs, funerals and classes.


All synagogues across Central Florida are closed at this time, however, many synagogues are holding online services.

Rabbi Sholom Dubov of Chabad of Greater Orlando, said their Facebook page and website will have a pre-Shabbat message. However, all Chabad services in the seven Chabads in the Orlando area are not having Shabbat services during this crisis. This includes Maitland, South Orlando, North Orlando, Downtown, Rollins College, UCF and Altamonte Springs Chabads. “The richness of home is most important in times like these. We encourage our families to stay at home and pray together.”

At the Congregation of Reform Judaism, the office will remain open, but there will be no services, programs, or events held at the temple through the month of April. Go to CRJ’s website for their link to participate virtually.

Temple Israel of DeLand is using Zoom for their virtual services. Rabbi Reuven Silverman quipped, “I’m now a rabbi in the ‘Temple of Zoom.’ We must maintain a good attitude in times like these. Humor helps.”

Explaining his reasons for using Zoom rather than a streaming service, Rabbi Silverman said, “...just streaming the services does not allow for interaction. God exists between us when we are interacting. Just streaming, is like watching a show but not participating.”

He continued, “We’re learning. Our first service, not everyone was muted. I was singing and I heard people in their home singing along with me. The only problem was there were delays or perhaps the distance kept our congregants from singing in tune and together. It was quite comical. However, we learned to turn on the mute button, and the problem was solved. It was rewarding knowing our congregation was actively praying in the comfort of their home.”

Zoom is a web conferencing service, to learn how to use Zoom, please google “Zoom” for instructions to install this program.

Congregation Ohev Shalom is fully virtual and has created a “Virtual Shabbat” page for its members, where they can access the text of the Shabbat prayer book and the text (Hebrew and English) of the Torah and Haftarah portion for the week. “Cantor Robuck and I will conduct the service with an empty sanctuary and the services are already livestreamed,” said Rabbi David Kay. They also have a virtual Seder Shabbat for families via Facebook Live. Amy and Eric Geboff will broadcast candle-lighting, blessing of the children, Kiddush, N’tilat Yadayim (ritual hand-washing) and HaMotzi from their own Shabbat table at home.

Temple Israel of Winter Springs can still be reached via phone or email (407-647-3055 or office@tiflorida.org) Services will be livestreamed through the Temple Israel website.

Please check with your synagogue’s website or call to learn about how you can connect.


All of the Hebrew schools have been closed. However, select classes may be available online. Again, check with your synagogue website or call to find out what they’re offering.

CRJ’s website stated that many of the programs and activities will now be offered virtually, either via a link on the website or Zoom.

Rabbi Silverman said they held their Wednesday evening Torah study class online. “Surprisingly, our first class had almost twice the amount of people than we normally have had. The class seemed more focused. There weren’t the distractions that occur when we’re together, face to face,” he said.

Temple Israel of Winter Springs’ adult education classes will be streamed on Rabbi Joshua Neely’s YouTube channel. Classes that can’t be streamed will be postponed.

Many of the Hebrew schools have sent out through their websites projects that parents can do with their children. Temple Israel’s MAGAL will provide educational materials online for the students.

The Jewish Academy of Orlando is also closed and will at this time hold classes remotely.

COS and JAO are working on bringing two popular monthly learning sessions (“Learning T’filah – Learning About Jewish Prayer” with Head of School Alan Rusonik and “Bible Stories You Thought You Knew” with Janet Friedman) online. “These were always done on Shabbat morning, but we want them to stay interactive, so they’ll take place on a weekday via Zoom,” said Rabbi Kay.

Bar/bat mitzvah

Chabad has cancelled all bar and bat mitzvahs. Rabbi Dubov said, “The teens are very adept at adjusting... So far, the bar or bat mitzvahs seem to handle the disappointment well.”

At Temple Israel of Winter Springs b’nai mitzvah tutoring will be conducted through video chat. Rabbi Neely understands the disappointment that a bar/bat mitzvah feels along with their families. “We’re allowing a small service, with only a few family members and volunteers from the temple. This service can be streamed and friends, family and the congregation can attend online... We’re going to invite the bar/bat mitzvah to come back a year from now to stand on the bema to recite their Torah and Haftorah portions.”

Rabbi Kay stated that “B’nai mitzvahs will do everything in the service they have been prepared to do.” COS is also working with the b’nai mitzvah families to identify another date next year when the child will be called to the Torah as a bar/bat mitzvah, lead parts of the service, etc., and they can invite family and friends at that time. The child will have the option of learning another Torah/Haftarah reading. They’ll give a speech and receive their bar/bat mitzvah blessing before family and congregation.”

The elderly

Inaccessibility to our elderly and their isolation has caused great concern to everyone.

“One of my concerns is the isolation of our elderly living in elderly care facilities,” Rabbi Neely said. “We cannot visit anymore and the elderly are generally not computer savvy. It’s not their world. I have a concern that they’re cut-off from their loved ones and from the Jewish community.” Temple Israel’s board members have a list that they’ve divided up and were calling all of the synagogue’s elderly members living in isolation in elderly care facilities.

“Please contact Temple Israel in Winter Springs if you know anyone who needs our service,” said Rabbi Neely.

Chabad has a team of volunteers who are delivering Shabbat meals to anyone in need. “We’ll leave the food at the door,” said Rabbi Dubov.

If you know of anyone who needs a meal or who would like to donate in support of Chabad’s efforts, contact Rabbi Dubov at Chabadorlando.org.

The Central Florida assisted-living facilities are on lockdown to protect our most vulnerable members of the community. One suggestion Nancy Ludin, CEO of the Jewish Pavilion, had is to write a senior a letter just expressing you are thinking of them and they are not alone.


The Orlando Community Weekday Minyan is convening online only now at 7:45 a.m., Monday through Friday at Livestream.com/OhevShalom.

Like all minyanim, there are times OCWM struggled to get 10 adult Jews together. Rabbi Kay stated that since going virtual-only there have been at least 10 every day, and the number has been increasing to about 20 today. He is leading the virtual minyan out of the Ohev Shalom chapel, but said they were also going to try other locations. “We’ve put the relevant pages from the prayer book we use online, too.”


Funerals are being held with only close family members graveside. Shiva can be supported by online support, however, there hasn’t been much experience to date.

There are concerns that Shiva helps in the grieving process and the Jewish community will not be there until the crisis passes. Rabbi Kay said that phone support is the best we can do. Meals can be sent in from the community to the home. 

“Our current thought is that interment would include only the immediate family, with social distancing enforced. The funeral service would be graveside only. Those at high risk would be encouraged not to attend,” said Rabbi Kay.

Area synagogues have other plans in the works—including looking plans for a possible virtual Passover Seder.

Christine DeSouza contributed to this article.


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