May 21, 2024
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May 21, 2024
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Communities Connect for In-Person and Virtual Tisha B’Av Events

By Eitan Nissel

COVID was a difficult time for the entire community, especially on days when people would typically come together, such as Tisha B’Av. Although each community moves at its own pace, and people have for the most part moved on from the pandemic, it may have left us with something that we can use to help us infuse Tisha B’Av with meaning: the ability to add virtual and hybrid programming to our roster of in-person events for the day.

Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck is hosting numerous in-person events this year. There will be a shiur on ahavat Yisrael (titled “I Hate That Guy!!”) given by Rabbi Yehoshua Szafranski, which plans on giving useful, practical pointers on achdut and how to avoid sinat chinam. Additionally, earlier in the afternoon, the youth department is hosting a fascinating program: a virtual reality viewing of the Beit Hamikdash. This unforgettable experience can change the entire day of Tisha B’Av for you and your family.

At Rinat Yisrael, also in Teaneck, two shiurim are being given before Mincha. Rabbi Joshua Kaufman will be talking about the day of Tisha B’Av itself and its dual nature of both repentance and mourning. Following Kaufman’s shiur, Dr. Avi Mermlestein will be giving historical context following the destruction of the Second Beit Hamikdash, from both ancient and modern perspectives. Both are sure to strengthen the day in their own way.

Of course, not everyone is old enough to go through the day in all of its intensities, so there are numerous programs being run for kids throughout the community. Rinat is hosting a mini-camp in addition to its shiurim, and Keter Torah is running its own youth program, which includes an extended movie option that goes further into the afternoon. These programs promise to provide an engaging time for kids who aren’t quite ready yet for the full solemnity of the fast day. And naturally, this is just a small sample of the events planned for Tisha B’Av this year in our community. Many shuls will be planning and hosting their own shiurim, discussions and kumzitzes throughout the day.

All of these events are sure to be popular as people look forward to returning to in-person events. However, many of the live streamed events that became widespread during the pandemic will continue this year and likely into the future as well.

For example, Congregation Ohr Torah of West Orange is holding a Zoom kinnot hosted by Rabbi Marc Spivak. This multimedia presentation will include speakers and stories to enhance the experience of kinnot and Tisha B’Av as a whole. It was started three years ago and has been popular ever since, Rabbi Spivak said.

The Orthodox Union is also continuing what has become a new tradition: kinnot webcasts featuring shiurim and more from incredible speakers, which will be held live all day. This year will include Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weireb, a former executive vice president of the OU, whose speech is called “From Haunted History to Hopeful Horizons;” Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer, who will speak about the life and legacy of Sarah Schenirer, the founder of the Bais Yaakov movement; along with other speakers, like Rabbi Steven Weil, CEO of Friends of IDF, and Rabbi Azarya Berzon. All of these programs will have live translations into sign language available.

Not all webcasts are at-home events, though, and some take a more hybrid approach. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation is hosting its worldwide Tisha B’Av event and it allows for both private and public viewing. Tickets can allow the audience to watch it at home or attend one of the many live showings in shuls across the community, including many of the shuls listed above, as well as in other cities and countries. Featuring the likes of Rabbi Uri Deutsch, Rabbi Gershon Miller, and Rabbi Ari Bensoussan, it promises “stirring visuals, inspiring speeches, moving vignettes and first-hand stories of struggle on the topics of galus, pain and Tisha B’Av.” This flexibility, as well as an alternate children’s program titled “The Yarok Effect,” allows everyone to engage and be inspired in whatever way is best for them.

Although they started as a way of dealing with COVID restrictions, live streamed events like these are likely here to stay. Even though in-person events are available once again, some people don’t have the strength to go out on a long, hot summer fast day. Thus, it’s important that there are ways of experiencing the Torah world from the comfort of one’s home.

Similarly, longtime online programs are sure to be popular again this year. While they may not receive quite as much viewership as they did during the pandemic, they’re still far more widely known than before that time. For example, Rabbi David Fohrmann at Aleph Beta hosts animated videos about all sorts of Torah topics, and every year there’s a new series for Tisha B’Av. This year’s production, a six-episode playlist about trust in Hashem even in difficult times, may be more popular than ever. Additionally, there will be a live event for premium members featuring Rabbi Fohrmann talking about select kinnot, which is sure to see a lot of people sign up.

Additionally, Torah in Motion is having its own online live event, featuring Rabbi Menachem Liebtag, Dr. Yael Ziegler, Rabbi Doron Perez and Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, among others. In lectures given throughout the day, they’ll look at Tisha B’Av through a variety of lenses, with topics ranging from who’s at fault for the destruction, the themes of Eichah Rabbah, the archeological context of the destruction, and the interplay between the actions and feelings of mourning.

The OU is also live streaming its famous Kumzitz of the World, a massive gathering led by the talmidim at NCSY Kollel at the Kotel to send off Tisha B’Av with song. Although the time difference between America and Israel means that it starts at noon on the East Coast, this modern Tisha B’Av classic promises to provide an inspiring experience like it does every year.

Tisha B’Av is one of the most important days of our calendar, and whether we mark it by attending programs in person, virtually or a combination of the two, the important thing is that we sit back and take the day to reflect.

Eitan Nissel is a summer intern at The Jewish Link, and is looking forward to shana bet at the Gush next year.

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