As the High Holidays approach, Jews around the world are gearing up to purchase tickets, schlep to synagogues, and make their once or twice yearly visit to a Jewish space. But as Rabbi Mark S. Golub, President of JBS points out, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous synagogue shut-downs, and logistical issues, “many simply can’t make it to shul.”
Golub’s brainchild, JBS, is helping fill the gap by broadcasting services that span the spectrum from Reform and alternative reimaginings of holiday services to those that strictly adhere to traditional Orthodox liturgy. However, Golub’s mission doesn’t stop with ensuring that Jews can view High Holidays services from the comfort of their own homes. Golub envisions a world where Jews don’t see engaging with their roots and organized Judaism as a chore. By bringing Jewish content and programming directly into viewers’ homes, he aims to make Judaism, both as a cultural identity and meaningful religious practices, accessible to everyone interested in connecting with their roots and participating in the global Jewish community.
Why on-demand, inclusive Judaism is mission critical
Ensuring that there’s no barrier to entry preventing Jews from feeling like valued members of the Jewish community is essential to fostering a strong sense of Jewish identity and practice, says Golub, who founded JBS in 2004 and is eclectic rabbi representing all Jewish movements.
Unaffiliated Jews or those who don’t connect with organized religion need a way to live their Judaism – their identity – without feeling excluded or uncomfortable about their level of religious knowledge or observance.
Orthodox and traditionally observant Jews deserve to feel that same sense of radical acceptance and broad inclusion that can be garnered from Jewish spaces. By founding a community with a come-as-you-are welcoming spirit, where there’s room for everyone, JBS aims to strengthen global Jewry, as well as reinforce connections between communities across the world and lay the groundwork for future generations and the future of Jewish identity itself.
Friday evening and Saturday morning and holiday services that
transcend observance levels
JBS’s High Holidays broadcast feature services from both the Reform and Orthodox ends of the spectrum. JBS has been partnering for many years with Central Synagogue, New York’s largest Reform congregation. Led by Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Central Synagogue’s High Holiday Services prominently feature orchestral accompaniment with world renowned cantor, Dan Mutlu, and Rabbi Buchdahl, who originally trained as a cantor, and is noted for her guitar playing and deeply moving singing.
The Hampton Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation led by founding Senior Rabbi Marc Schneier, is renowned for its masterful musical services, featuring world-class cantor Netanel Hershtik. High Holidays services will be led by Rabbi Schneier and Rabbi Avraham Bronstein, supported by Cantor Hershtik, Maestro Izchak Haimov, and the Hampton Synagogue Choir.“JBS embraces everyone. No one is made to feel uncomfortable, second class, like ‘you don’t know enough’ – that doesn’t exist here,” Golub explains. “Everyone comes, everyone is welcome. It’s your home.”
Most Jews, no matter where they live, only know their own synagogue. But thanks to JBS, Jews can enjoy the best of both worlds, with the ability to experience a diverse range of Jewish services. Viewers can choose to watch an egalitarian, Reform broadcast followed by a traditional Orthodox service. This opens the world to the average Jew, who has never experienced anything outside their local options.
With so many expressions of Judaism made accessible to viewers, JBS provides Jews across the world with the ability to discover and engage with the level of religious observance and prayer style that resonates most with them.
How cultural immersion and outreach strengthens Jewish identity
But JBS’s offerings go far beyond religious and holiday broadcasts. JBS programming includes daily news reports from Israel, live event coverage and analysis, and cultural programming of interest to the North American Jewish community. Shows explore topics as diverse as basic Hebrew, Israeli music, Jewish cinema, comedy specials, programs on Jewish culinary traditions and cooking, yoga classes and more.
Through JBS, Israel’s voice is heard not just by Jews worldwide, but also by the general public at a time when Israel fights for public opinion but doesn’t find an open door all too often with mainstream media.
Content that empowers viewers with the ability to engage with Judaism as both a religion and a living, breathing culture helps foster a sense of belonging within the community. Especially for unaffiliated and less observant Jews, JBS’s programming provides a forum for reconnecting with their heritage that is not explicitly religious.
JBS doesn’t fall neatly into any particular stream of Judaism. “It’s not Orthodox. Not Conservative. Not Reform. We are a cultural channel for our viewers,” says Golub. “What you see on JBS 24 hours a day is the finest in Jewish culture all over the world. You’ll see discussions, panels, and groups discussing the issues that confront Jews today, and especially American Jewry.”