By Debra Winter
If you’ve joined us for services via Zoom lately, you may have experienced diminished audio quality, unbalanced sound, or other technical issues. I’d like to start by thanking you for your patience! As we’ve returned to worship together in the sanctuary we love, we’ve learned our current audiovisual systems no longer meet our community’s needs. In the coming months, our hope and our goal is to change that.
Last July, we convened a “Technology Committee” to help us think through our next chapter of communal prayer. There is little doubt that the nature of community worship is shifting; what some are terming “hybrid” or “multi-access” services have now become the norm. While we recognize that in-person and remote (Zoom) participation are not equivalent experiences, we hope that certain technological upgrades can help us provide meaningful interactions between, and among, all of the populations we serve.
With two additional cameras on the way, we are paving the way for a more dynamic service experience to be broadcast from the sanctuary for those joining remotely, including better close-up angles of our clergy, and even exploring the idea of an over-the-shoulder “Torah cam” so that those at home can read along in our scroll. In addition, we will also be able to bring our online community into the sanctuary via two display screens at the front of the room. This is an area of our technology we plan to use judiciously, and very intentionally, having selected a model (“The Frame” by Samsung) that will be made to resemble artwork when not in active use.
Of course, changes are also in store for our audio technologies. A well-functioning sound system is crucial to the remote experience – while it’s possible to hold an audio-only service with no working cameras, it becomes almost impossible to participate in a video-only service with no working sound. Unfortunately, we have often missed the mark here. We hope that by replacing what’s not working, adding several new microphones and audio channels, and doing extensive testing, we can achieve what any great sound system should, as clarity and balance blend with what the rest of your senses may be experiencing: becoming unremarkable.
Part of our audio upgrade includes a new assisted listening system (ALS). Our current system relies on infrared signals, which can be disrupted as solid masses— such as our bodies—move nearby. The new ALS will instead function via radio frequency signals (RF), which are not subjected to the same disruptions, and will also include a hybrid option via WiFi. Community members and their guests will have the option of either using the provided RF devices (with an in-ear, over-the-ear, or neck loop attachment) or connecting their personal cell phone and headphones. We hope this upgraded technology will make a discreet, but significant difference in the experience for those using our ALS, and we will provide detailed instructions and training to anyone who requests it.
The clergy and technology committee’s shared intent is to avoid interfering with our prayer space – we want Micah to feel like Micah, and we want Shabbat to feel like Shabbat. At the same time, we recognize the accessibility that comes with having a remote option, and would love to welcome our members’ extended families from all over the country into our sacred space. With these upgrades, grandparents unable to travel to Temple Micah for b’nai mitzvah will be able to chant an aliyah blessing, for example. To keep services spontaneous, vital, and organic, those leading services will have the ability to adjust views in real time.
This is an immense project: an attempt to change our beloved sanctuary space as minimally and gracefully as possible and give us flexibility and options well into the future—even as we’re not yet sure what that looks like. We hope the necessary, new equipment will reach us over the summer; as with many other items, this has been greatly impacted by supply chain issues. Once everything arrives, it may take a few weeks to install, so there may be a Shabbat or two without our sanctuary – we’re looking forward to trying new things.
We love feedback and we want people to continue to rebuild with us! We are moving forward toward something new, and we will continue in a spirit of experimentation and exploration together. To be in touch about our technological upgrades, our ideas for building community near and far on Shabbat, or other questions around our re-visioning of the Temple Micah sanctuary, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Generous matching gifts to our Sanctuary Technology Fund made these improvements to our audiovisual systems possible. If you would like to contribute, please reach out to Executive Director Beth Werlin, email@example.com.