Passover-Minded Synagogue Prepares To Sweep All Hametz From Its Inboxes

Romemu Congregants Embrace 'De-Emailing' Plan

Getty Images

By Sigal Samuel

Published April 06, 2014, issue of April 18, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Stepping away from the online world for a set time period is not exactly a “new thing.” As a growing tide of research confirms that our culture of constant connectivity has negative psychological effects, and actually makes us less efficient, people are becoming increasingly interested in the “unplugging” movement. On March 7 and 8, many observed the fifth annual National Day of Unplugging, a 24-hour period without electronics. Last December, Arianna Huffington — who spends her life running an online news site — announced that she would disconnect from all her devices for seven days ahead of the Christmas holidays. Whether such digital sabbaths actually have a lasting, positive impact after the circumscribed time period is over remains a matter of debate.

But for Romemu, a practice of partial unplugging fits snugly into the congregation’s overall ethos, which is rooted in mindfulness year-round. “Unabashedly eclectic, we engage in body practices like yoga, infuse traditional liturgy with the energy of ecstatic chant, and ground our practice with meditation and contemplation,” the synagogue’s website says. Ingber is known for incorporating his own experience with Eastern spiritual practices into Romemu’s services.

Still, not all staff members were expected to be equally enthused about abandoning their inboxes for an entire week. Sameth acknowledged this in a March 18 email to Romemu staff. “I also know that for some of you, the very idea of not checking email gives you the hives,” she wrote. Later, she told the Forward that the plan “does give them a little sense of nervousness,” and described her colleagues as “both excited and challenged” by it.

Perhaps Huffington’s lessons from her experience would be instructive. She allowed herself to “plug into” her work for an hour each day that her office was open. She scheduled “inspirational quotes” in advance on Facebook and Twitter. And, in a blog post published afterward, she said that “unplugging is easier when you change locations.” She was on vacation in Hawaii.

For Sameth, who first conceived of the idea for Romemu, the desire to “de-email” came out of a reflection on what would happen if she were to relive the Passover story today. She realized that she would never make it to the Red Sea to experience the miracle of liberation, because she would be too busy checking her inbox.

“I would never have known that everybody was leaving Egypt,” Sameth told the Forward. “I would have missed the most important thing!”

The congregants’ willingness to embrace — even extend — her concept as a way to make their holiday more meaningful could itself be considered a mark of success. But for Sameth, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Her ideal outcome would be for the “de-emailing” practice to spread far and wide in the Jewish world.

“If people can give themselves this gift, it would be a remarkable statement that the Jewish community is willing to recognize the real hametz in our lives,” she said, “not just the leavened bread.”

Contact Sigal Samuel at samuel@forward.com or on Twitter, @SigalSamuel


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!
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next could be a historic turning point.
  • 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.