On Aug. 26, a new Canadian Jewish learning platform will make its debut. Rabbischer.com, which bills itself as “Upbeat learning for the modern life,” is being spearheaded by Rabbi Idan Scher, the spiritual leader of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa.
Rabbi Scher said he got the idea about a year and a half ago, when he saw how many people were tuning in to his series of Facebook Live videos. Called the Monday Morning Jolt, they were a series of short videos, in which he shared inspirational thoughts. He describes them as, “Something that would speak to people living in 2018, but was based on the rich Jewish heritage.”
Those videos would get up to 900 views – which was more people than would come into his synagogue, even on the busiest day of the year, according to Rabbi Scher.
“It really got me thinking: if I have a message I want to share, if there is learning that I’d like to disseminate, then I’m obviously not doing it right by not using everything technology has to offer,” he said. “It’s a modern, hip way of bringing all those really significant concepts that have kept us as a people, bringing it to a global audience in the 21st century.”
So Rabbi Scher decided to create a more substantial and comprehensive way to spread his message to the masses. He applied for, and received, funding from the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, which he used to create the new website. He is also partnering with Rabbi Reuven Bulka, who was the senior rabbi at Machzikei Hadas before Rabbi Scher took over, to create some of the content.
“We thought it was a great idea and perfectly in line with our vision for the Jewish Superhighway,” said Andrea Freedman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, referring to its new initiative to enhance Jewish life in the city.
“Rabbi Scher and Rabbi Bulka are both wonderful community leaders and great teachers. We saw an opportunity by funding it to bring their learning and their enthusiasm for Jewish life to a broader audience, which we think is terrific, because it makes Jewish knowledge and Jewish life more accessible.”
Rabbi Bulka will join Rabbi Scher on the Rabbi2Rabbi podcast, where the two will discuss issues they’ve had to deal with during their tenures and how they managed them.
“Humans stay the same in many, many ways. These are questions that may come up in a different form, for me as a rabbi,” said Rabbi Scher. “So I thought both of us sharing our thoughts and reactions to all those different types of things would be a really interesting way of sharing the values that are important to us.”
The website will also host a podcast called Deep Dives, in which Rabbi Scher will delve into a topical issue, to provide a comprehensive and considered analysis from a Jewish perspective, as well as one that unpacks the Talmud.
Alongside the podcasts, the site will also feature two video series and a blog. In a series of videos called Quick Takes, Rabbi Scher will provide a modern Jewish perspective on the biggest stories in the news in three minutes. And in one called In Conversation With …, he will interview other community leaders, such as imams, priests, members of Parliament and heads of Jewish organizations.
Daniel Pfeffer, at board member at Machzikei Hadas, says people are excited about the new initiative.
“I think of Machzikei Hadas as a thought leader among other Orthodox Jewish institutions and I think that the website provides an excellent platform for both our synagogue as an institution and for Rabbi Scher himself to continue to bring forward important and modern interpretations of Jewish philosophy,” he said.