Projected Prayers Grow in Popularity as Part of Jewish 'Visual Tefillah' Services

Reform Worship Gets a Boost on the Big Screen

Projected: Popular with Evangelicals, visual tefillah is a new trend among Jews.
Steve Medwin
Projected: Popular with Evangelicals, visual tefillah is a new trend among Jews.

By Rukhl Schaechter

Published March 30, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

“We project not only the page numbers and prayer titles, but the Hebrew and English for every prayer and reading, with beautiful pictures that enhance the prayer experience,” she said.

Other synagogues prefer to make their own visual prayer services. For the past six years, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, an 800-member synagogue, has been conducting a monthly Kabbalat Shabbat service without prayer books. During each service, called Shabbat B’Yachad, or Shabbat Together, local musicians and talented congregants lead the prayers in a spiritual rock sing-along, and the congregants, glancing at the screen, sing and dance along.

Rabbi Jonathan Aaron, who designs the visual tefillot for Temple Emanuel, says that the worshippers seem much more interested in the service when they aren’t holding books in their hands. “People’s heads are up more, and it feels more like a community,” he said.

For some people, though, it’s been difficult to let go, Cantor Yonah Kliger said. “At the first few sessions of Shabbat B’Yachad, we put the siddurim away, and some of the congregants were actually walking around, trying to find them. But we felt strongly that when the prayers are on a big screen, it allows the congregants to connect to the words and music in a visceral way.”

Woodlands Community Temple, in White Plains, N.Y., conducts a similar Kabbalat Shabbat service every six or eight weeks. In the program, called “A Joyful Noise,” an 11-piece volunteer music ensemble plays the melodies to the prayers as the text is projected onto two large screens overhead. Mindful that some congregants still prefer the prayer book, Rabbi Billy Dreskin accommodates them by including the page number on the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

When visual tefillah was just beginning to catch on, most rabbis assumed that the elder congregants would be resistant; however, the majority of them have welcomed the change. “A lot of them tell me that they like it because the letters are large and illuminated, and it’s easier when you don’t have to hold on to a siddur throughout the service,” Medwin said.

“When your hands are free, you can clap your hands, put an arm around the person next to you, or let a child fall asleep in your lap,” Dreskin said. “Some people might ask, ‘How is it that the People of the Book are letting go of the book?’ But honestly, we’re not letting go of it; we’re just putting it on the screen.”

Rukhl Schaechter is the news editor at the Forverts, where this article first appeared in Yiddish.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.