Alex Lewy, who serves as Hallandale Beach’s vice mayor and is running for a seat in the Florida Legislature, attended last year’s Rosh Hashana experience at the Jewish Museum and said he plans to return on Wednesday. (In the spirit of this article, Lewy’s interview was conducted by text message. “Please correct any typos due to autocorrect,” he wrote.)
“As a locally elected official, I am tethered to my iPhone, maybe even too much,” texted Lewy, 32. “It’s traditionally off during services, but things aren’t exactly traditional at The Tribe. And that’s why so many young people were captivated by it.
“Once I accepted that I wasn’t experiencing my grandparents’ version of High Holy Day services, I remembered that the purpose of connecting to G-d was there, regardless of the medium.”
While many Jewish leaders recognize the importance of keeping young Jews engaged in the religion, not everyone believes that texting during services is the best way to do that.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” said Rabbi Judith Siegal of Temple Judea in Coral Gables, who noted that the prayer book her Reform congregation uses is available as an iPad app. “I think it’s a great use of a technology that’s such a part of our lives. But I look at the High Holy Days as a much-needed break from the constant involvement of technology in our lives.
“For many people, it’s a good exercise to turn everything off, to unplug everything,” she said. “The importance of being part of a sacred community is having real face time with people. Most of us probably spend more time facing a screen each day than we do actually facing people. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the time of the year where we should be renewing our human connections with each other.”
Not for everyone
Dinar acknowledged that her group’s Rosh Hashana text experience — like its Hanukkah “ Vodka Latke” event — may not sit well with traditionalists. But she pointed out that The Tribe offers more-conventional networking and volunteering events throughout the year.
And, she said, you never know what someone may discover when they text-message their way through a holiday.
“One woman who attended last year’s experience told us she had stopped going to synagogue because most of her friends weren’t Jewish,” Dinar said. “She gave our event a try, and something really clicked with her. She said, ‘Now I’m ready to go to Israel.’ ”