Friday, February 26, 2021

Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck recently launched the Internet Minyan, which will stream live daily Shacharit, Mincha and Maariv, except of course on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

At the outbreak of COVID-19, Zoom tefillah groups sprang up across the country. Many individuals davening alone were able to join others via Zoom. While not halachically constituting a minyan, this at least offered the feeling of tefilah b’tzibur while in lockdown. Once the lockdown ended and people began to feel a bit more safe, live minyanim formed and were sometimes streamed on Zoom so those who were unable to attend in-person could participate virtually. While Zoom minyanim were very popular, their broad availability diminished considerably once outdoor minyanim became commonplace and indoor minyanim resumed with precautions.

Enter the new CBY Internet Minyan, which now streams live from the Bnai Yeshurun beit midrash three times daily with a high-definition, wide-angle camera offering the viewer the feeling of being present in the room. Microphones placed over both the amud and the bima allow the ba’al tefillah and the ba’al kriya to be heard loudly and clearly. Viewers participate without the need to download a smartphone app or know a password. Using a computer or a smartphone, simply click on a link to participate in the minyan.

Rabbi Ari Zahtz of CBY advises that online participants in the Internet Minyan may respond “Amen” to brachot and to devarim she’bekdusha (Kaddish, Kedusha or Barchu), but may not be counted toward the minyan, recite Kaddish or lead the tzibbur. Additionally, HaRav Herschel Schachter, who has written many halachic opinions on this issue, recommends that one davening at home with the Internet Minyan make every effort to dress as if he or she were attending in person.

While the global pandemic highlights the need for a virtual minyan, many people during ordinary times are unable, for medical or other reasons, to participate in tefillah b’tzibur. There are also those who are traveling or find themselves in a location without a minyan. The Internet Minyan is a permanent offering of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun and will stream live on weekdays (no replays) even after COVID, offering participants the ability to hear a full tefillah including Kaddish, chazarat hashatz, kriat HaTorah, Hallel, etc. A daily dvar Torah by R’ Tuly Pollack will follow Shacharit.

Currently, the platform can potentially support 1,000 or more simultaneous viewers. In the future there is the potential to also livestream the Internet Minyan on Facebook and YouTube as well as on a dedicated Roku channel for those who prefer to use a television. This could be beneficial to someone who is bedridden or for whom a smartphone is less than ideal.

In the first week the Internet Minyan began to stream, organizers received a thank you email from a shul member. He wrote about his 88-year-old father who throughout his life has made his schedule around davening daily in shul, but was recently advised by his physicians to not attend indoor or even outdoor minyanim. He described how upset his father was to lose the opportunity to daven with a minyan, but now virtually attends the Internet Minyan and loves it. After reading that email, I felt that for this one person alone the entire project was worth it.

The current times for the minyanim  are: Shacharit (slow minyan) Sunday at 8 a.m.; Shacharit Monday to Friday at 7:15 a.m.; Mincha at 1:45 p.m.; and Maariv at 6 p.m.. An updated minyan schedule can be seen at any time by clicking on the event or checking the shul calendar.

The stream can be found at: bnaiyeshurun.org/internet-minyan.html or at www.tribeautomation.com/iminyan.

No communal offering happens on its own. A special thank you to Aaron Lehmann who saw this need years ago and advocated for a solution. Thank you as well to Gabbai Rishon Chaim Kiss for scheduling the minyanim that will be streamed; to CBY Executive Director Elysia Stein and the dedicated office staff for scheduling the streams and updating for Rosh Chodesh and other special days; and to Mayer Fertig, who provided audio and other assistance.

The Internet Minyan is dedicated in memory of my mother-in-law Miriam bat Betzalel Yehudah, z”l, who learned to daven in the secrecy of her own home under Communist rule. In the zechut of all those who participate in the Internet Minyan, may her neshama have an aliyah.

By Dov Pavel