Torah in the Cloud



by Pete Bernard

Like many other congregations, Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue, WA, has a diverse group of Torah readers— young and old—who participate regularly in reading the parashah. A strong and varied group of readers is a key part of our community, and we continually strive to introduce this tradition to new members of the congregation.

We’ve come a long way since Ezra the Scribe introduced public Torah readings around 537 BCE. Today’s community is connected like never before, and we’ve recently introduced a way to leverage that connectedness to grow and strengthen the cadre of our Torah readers within our congregation.

The goal was simple enough—to enable anyone to visit our website, peruse the upcoming readings, and volunteer to read. After selecting a parashah, individuals are able to download the text and audio materials, as well as access Torah reading tools. We also wanted to make it easy for clergy and staff to maintain the system and keep it fresh so we implemented a solution using Microsoft’s SkyDrive, which is free, and includes several key parts.

First, we created an annual schedule of readings in Excel that is “view only” on our website, but that can easily be edited by our staff and clergy. Community members can review the Excel schedule and click on the parashah they are interested in, which generates an email to the clergy. Once the email is received and the volunteer and clergy touch base, the volunteer’s name is added to the schedule of readers.

Second, we created a simple folder structure using SkyDrive to house all of the .PDF text and MP3 files of the chants for the parashah. This system allows anyone to download, review and practice their portion ahead of time, and enables clergy and staff to add new content anytime.

Finally, we created a web page on Temple B’nai Torah’s website that embeds the SkyDrive content and includes links to learning resources to help people practice their tropes. Upgrades this summer will make these resources available to congregants through smart phones and will enable clergy and staff to edit and adjust SkyDrive content via apps for Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

I’m not quite sure what the Jews in the time of Ezra would think of our solution, although I feel as though we are taking his notion all the way to its logical conclusion—Torah reading by anyone in the community, with easy access to the tools and resources needed to enjoy this honor.

Pete Bernard serves as first vice president at Temple B’nai Torah, Bellevue, WA.

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3 Responses to “Torah in the Cloud”

  1. avatar
    Jordan Friedman Reply July 2, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    I’m a recent college grad living a ridiculously “connected” life like most people my age. My life is over-crowded with computers, laptops, servers, smartphones, tablet devices, and peripherals, and I go to Temple to get AWAY from all that. I don’t want any Wi-Fi signals or ethernet jacks or text messages or tweets. I want a warm Sanctuary with natural materials like wood paneling, and a real, bound paper Prayer Book and Bible commentary. I don’t want to be surrounded by glowing screens. This is a really neat and innovative idea, but it’s not for everybody, and if it becomes widespread, it could be hard to escape.

  2. avatar

    Actually the solution described in the article is for use PRIOR to going to Temple. It’s helps us get volunteers to be Torah readers. It is not used during the service itself.

    • avatar

      I noticed that upon re-reading the article, but I know that there are many, many attempts to integrate smartphones and tablets into the Service itself. I’m not a big fan of that…

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