“Apps, YouTube and Skype: how Judaism got with the times”

“Apps, YouTube and Skype: how Judaism got with the times”

By Ella STERN, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

The closest I came to lighting a candle this Chanukah was when my family rung me over Skype and tunelessly sung moatzor down the speaker. Whilst I passed this off to my non Jewish flat mate as discordant jibberish, I couldn’t help but feel slightly heartbroken that this year I hadn’t one candle to my name.

There was only one thing to do to cheer my candleless self up. Whip out the iPad, open my ‘My Menorah‘ app and light my menorah, virtual style. Genius!

With no match (or menorah for that matter) needed, I bish bash boshed Chanukah then and there, in my bedroom. Each flame dramatically lit up with background music to accompany it, fake smoke erupted, I was wished a happy Chanukah, Moatzor played me out…and then I went on Facebook.

Well it’s becoming apparent that religion is indeed ‘getting with the times.’ There is finally the concern that your siddur may indeed crash.

I lit an entire menorah in my dressing gown from the comfort of my bed. I can toot my shofar, saliva free, by swiping my finger across the screen and for 69p, Shabbat candles are yours.

My synagogue live streamed the Rosh Hashanah service on YouTube this year, allowing me to pause the rabbi whilst I nipped to the loo. I can bench off my iPhone and it goes without saying I can read the Torah at my own leisure on there too.

Should we be comfortable with thousands of years’ worth of tradition being so accessible that I could practice an entire years worth of festivities in the bath? Or should we applaud its convenience?

I can’t help but bare comparisons to Judaism and technology to having my Grandma on Facebook and my father on twitter. Should my grandma be seeing photos of me highly intoxicated? No.

Should my dad see me tweeting about how I successfully schmoozed my way out of a parking ticket? No.

The crossover of old school traditions and digital media are gradually becoming one. So if my grandma naively ‘liked’ a picture of me holding what she assumed to be apple juice, then surely this is an indication for it becoming acceptable to be able to ‘switch off’ the Torah.

I feel the only way I can make a fair conclusion to this topic is to put myself in the shoes of  g-d.

I’m sure he won’t mind.

If I was the one. The one and only, the big man in charge, the ultimate mench, I think I’d have to say I was ok with this techno mumbo gumbo.

I feel that having such a responsibility and ultimately being the reason for all existence, it would be reassuring for me to know that if my people were at an amusement park on a Friday and the Ferris wheel broke and wouldn’t stop spinning before it got dark, they could whip out the Shabbat candle app.

I’d also be at peace knowing that if held at gun point and the gunman said ‘show me your Torah portion or die,’ they could indeed keep their life.  And of course, if a sad little Uni student was distraught over this year’s deprivation of candle lighting; there was always ‘My Menorah’ to fall back on…

Providing it was charged.

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