Temple Isaiah will broadcast Rosh Hashanah service on cable

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Temple Isaiah of Lafayette couldn't squeeze its overflow High Holy Day crowd into its main sanctuary. So last year, Howard Beckerman and other congregation members decided to place closed-circuit cameras near the bimah so celebrants could watch from monitors and a monster screen outside the sanctuary.

Beckerman also videotaped the holiday services for the rabbi's personal records. Eventually, word spilled out so those who had missed the services because they were sick or homebound could borrow the rabbi's tapes.

This year, the Reform synagogue will conduct Contra Costa County's first televised Rosh Hashanah service, which will be aired on a local cable channel.

"It started off with screens in the synagogue; the VCR was an afterthought which turned into an unexpected success," Beckerman said.

The demand for the tapes at the 750-family synagogue gave Beckerman another idea. He knew that TCI Cablevision Channel 3, a community-access channel in central Contra Costa County, aired programming produced by citizens, local groups and organizations as a public service.

So in hopes of giving those who could not attend an opportunity to observe this year's services, he contacted the cable company.

TCI agreed to air the Rosh Hashanah morning service at noon, though it was unable to broadcast other services or do live coverage.

"The request for airing the High Holy Day services came a bit late to fit our programming schedule, and we don't regularly schedule weekend programming" said Charly Shepler, TCI program manager. This year, Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday.

The synagogue considered a live broadcast, but the $2,000 cost for a video crew, microwave link and production van was prohibitive.

Whether the broadcast is live or not, Temple Isaiah's Associate Rabbi Judy Shanks sees it as a valuable form of outreach. "By bringing Rosh Hashanah services to people via this broadcast, we hope we can help more Jews feel part of the Jewish family," she said.

In the future, the synagogue would like to broadcast both its Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services.

"We'll see how it goes," Beckerman said. "It depends on the hookup and the response from both TCI and the congregation."