Easing the online transition for synagogues

Thanks to the Lee L. and Judith E. Selwyn Foundation and CJP, local synagogues got some help this fall keeping their communities connected for the High Holidays – and beyond.

With a generous donation from the Foundation, CJP was able to offer a Technology Grant Fund for synagogues to upgrade their technology prior to the High Holidays. Synagogues could apply for a grant of either $1,000 or $2,500 to be used for tech enhancements such as Zoom accounts, cameras, computers, audio equipment, consultants, and more.

A total of $172,000 was granted to 75 synagogues around Greater Boston. The funding – which overwhelmingly came from the Foundation, a longtime philanthropic partner of CJP – will also help synagogues continue to virtually engage their congregants in Jewish life throughout the pandemic.

Collaboration key to meeting urgent needs

“Synagogues have encountered significant impact and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and have pivoted in many creative ways to support their communities,” said Lee Selwyn. “ We also wanted to ensure that congregations had the necessary technological resources to connect with members moving forward into the winter and next year. This is a new remote world for Jewish life, and we are so proud to help.”

Throughout the summer, CJP’s Partnerships & Services team connected with area synagogues to determine their needs, and then, coordinate funding, said CJP President and CEO Rabbi Marc Baker. The Technology Grant Fund came together so quickly because of the increased collaboration between CJP, the community, and synagogues.

“We are so incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Selwyns and this unprecedented opportunity to use technology to connect with the community,” Baker said. “We won’t let the pandemic stand in the way of finding meaning in our traditions and uniting around our rituals.”

Flexible funding empowers congregations

How the funding is used is up to each congregation, with the only requirement being that it aid in technology upgrades. Some synagogues are using the money to stream live services, while others – due to denominational guidance about technology – are launching new or improved virtual Jewish learning opportunities.

At Temple Etz Chaim in Franklin, volunteer Technology Coordinator Isaac Chartoff said that congregants were thrilled with the chance to virtually connect to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Without exaggeration, everything worked better because of the grant. 
Isaac Chartoff, Temple Etz Chaim, Franklin

“Without CJP’s generosity, it is doubtful we would have had the resources to present such a fulfilling Rosh Hashanah experience,” he said. “Without exaggeration, everything worked better because of the grant.”

Temple Emanu-El of Marblehead received $2,500, which was used to fund enhanced audio equipment. According to Rabbi David J. Meyer, “Having the resources to be able to effectively stream our services to our community is so vitally important.”

“We know that the future well-being of synagogue life is very much in the balance as we confront today’s challenges,” Meyer said. “This funding gives us confidence going forward, and we thank CJP and the Selwyn Foundation sincerely for helping us fulfill our mission and vision."