Social Distancing Doesn’t Mean Social Isolation for Churches and Synagogues in West Hollywood

Rabbi Max Chaiken and Rabbi Denise Eger on Facebook testing for tonight’s online service.

With Passover here and Easter coming up many want to observe the holy holidays with a church or synagogue service. However, in the age of Safer at Home quarantines to prevent spread of the coronavirus, such gatherings are discouraged.

Luckily, we live in an age of technology where live streaming and video conferencing of spiritual/religious services is possible. Many places of worship are offering online services for congregants who are stuck at home.

“By doing in-person services, you’re putting people in danger. So, it’s the responsibility of churches, synagogues and spiritual centers to offer online services,” explained Jesse Brune-Horan, the founder of the West Hollywood-based Inspire Spiritual Center. “These are times of uncertainty. People need continuity and stability in their lives, which online services can offer.”

Brune-Horan feels people are in need of communal interaction which the Safer at Home orders prevent. So, online services and meetings offer the next best thing.

“People are experiencing grief and trauma, people are scared,” said Brune-Horan. “The valuable service is to take care of them, to nurture their soul and their heart.”

That was a goal of Hollywood Temple Beth El, which celebrated the second night of Passover on Thursday with a live-cast of “Some Enchanted Pesach Seder,” a mélange of traditional and contemporary texts and music.

“We can’t serve you our delicious matzah ball soup this year, but we can serve you with an uplifting experience to share with all your fellows on-line,” said Rabbi Norbert Weinberg in an announcement of the event. “Then, when we have finished our Enchanted Seder, you can enjoy your dinner and listen to the lovely medley of Pesach music we have prepared for you on You Tube.” Other previous services also can be viewed on YouTube.

Many online services are offered through live streaming on the church/synagogue website or though Facebook Live. Just go to the church/synagogue website (included below) and it will provide direction for watching the live streaming on the website or direct you to a Facebook Live web stream.

Alternately, some are offering services through the Zoom video-conferencing website and app. For those unfamiliar with the Zoom, it’s easy to use. Download the Zoom app for free to your smart phone or tablet. Or if using a computer or laptop, go to Zoom.us (note it is NOT Zoom.com but Zoom.us). Find the link that says JOIN A MEETING and clink on that. It will then ask for a meeting number or personal link name, followed by a password. Type those in and you will be entered into the meeting or service.

To get the Zoom meeting ID number and password for the services, go to the websites of the churches and synagogues which offer that information. Websites are included in the listing below. Alternately, phone or email the church/synagogue for the meeting number and password.

WEHOville is opting not to publish those meeting numbers and passwords to discourage “zoom bombing.” The practice of “zoom bombing” is a recent development where strangers invade meetings for the purpose of disrupting it. They often do this by making racist or homophobic comments and/or flashing pornographic images on the screen. In an effort to combat such “zoom bombing,” Zoom added the password requirement for meetings a week ago.

Here’s a roundup of the West Hollywood-based churches and synagogues having services this weekend.

Inspire Spiritual Community

The non-denominational services for LGBTQ+ people and allies are offered through Zoom. Sunday, April 12 – Online service at 11:30 a.m. .

Congregation Kol Ami

The LGBTQ Jewish congregation has services streaming on Facebook Live and also holds smaller meetings on Zoom.

  • Friday, April 10 – Online Shabbat services at 6:30 p.m. on Facebook Live
  • Friday, April 10 – Virtual Oneg at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom.
  • Saturday, April 11 – Online family Passover singing and story time at 4:30 p.m. via Zoom.
  • Saturday, April 11 – Open Yad Virtual Havdalah and Game Night at 7 p.m. via Zoom.
  • Sunday, April 12 – Drop-in hour with the rabbis at 3 p.m. via Zoom.

First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills

Despite the name, the Baptist Church is located on Cynthia Street in West Hollywood. Sunday, April 12 – Services at 11 a.m. via Zoom can be found online.

Hollywood Temple Beth El

The Jewish congregation that meets at 1371 N. Crescent Heights Blvd is live-casting Shabbat services on Zoom and the recording of the service is available on You Tube : https://youtu.be/1Y2VKPpX8eQ.  Links to its online services can be found on its Facebook page.

St. Victors Catholic Church

The church on Holloway Drive offers livestreaming mass without congregation present. Access the live stream via its website.

  • Friday, April 10 – Good Friday mass at 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 11 – Holy Saturday Easter vigil at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 12 – Easter mass at 10:30 a.m. 

St. Ambrose Church

The Catholic church on Fairfax Avenue is not offering online services. However, the church’s website directs people to the online services held at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. There will be live streaming of masses through its website.

  • Friday, April 10 – English-language mass celebrated at noon, Spanish-language mass at 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 11 – Mass at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 12 – English-language mass celebrated at 10 a.m., Spanish-language mass at 7 a.m.

That website also has a detailed list of online services at parishes across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

West Hollywood United Church of Christ

The church on Sunset Boulevard at Martel does not have online Easter services currently listed on its website . However, the church did hold online services for Palm Sunday (April 5), so check back to see if the website is updated for Easter services.