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Winnipeg Free Press Annual Final Arrangements Publication Interviews Rabbi Anibal Mass about Live streaming Funerals

16/06/2021 08:37:39 PM


Livestreaming Is Here To Stay
More and more funeral services now being broadcast on the web

By Pat Rediger

With a degree in computer science, it was only natural for Rabbi Anibal Mass to consider the technological needs of the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue when he arrived in 2002.

One of the things he noted was the number of people who were unable to attend services because they were sick, spent winters in warmer climates, or were just shy about attending large gatherings.

That led him to introduce audio broadcasts so people could hear the synagogue’s regular services, but not see the proceedings. In 2017, he introduced his first video broadcast through Shaarey Zedek’s website and the following year, he added two more cameras along with a switcher and operator to present a more professional quality. The services are now broadcast through the synagogue’s website as well as on Facebook and YouTube.

In 2018, the synagogue began livestreaming funeral services and last year added graveside ceremonies following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a big change to do graveside services,” Mass says. “We had never done that before.”

In the synagogue, cameras were placed in an unobtrusive manner so as not to disturb the service. The same approach was taken to the graveside service. Mass says they preferred to just bring an iPhone with a broadcasting app to the service so it was not apparent to the people who were attending in person, but would allow people who were not able to attend to see the service.

Although the pandemic may have hastened the need to broadcast graveside services, Mass says that the practice is likely to stay even when the pandemic ends.

“In the Jewish tradition, funerals should take place as quickly as possible,” he says. “It you have to plan a funeral in two or three days, and you have family in Australia or the United Kingdom, and they cannot make it in time, what are you going to do now? If you cannot make it, you can still hear all of the speakers. We’ve received countless emails and phone calls from people who have thanked us for what we do.”

Erik Bardal, owner of Neil Bardal Funeral Home, has also witnessed an increase in demand for live streaming services, including graveside services. He recorded his first service more than a decade ago in response to demand from people who indicated that they could not attend the service in-person due to travel distance, cost, or other commitments. Recording the service and placing it on the company’s website made the service more accessible to loved ones.

“Now that there is a limited number of people who are allowed to attend, we pretty much set up anywhere,” Bardal says. “People should be aware that it’s possible and that they should talk to family to see if they want to participate or watch. Sometimes we have people who will be watching and then they will call in and indicate that they have something they would like to say.”

Similar to the synagogue, the funeral home has stationary cameras in the chapel and phones on tripods with apps that allow them to live stream from anywhere. Bardal says they try to find the best place to set up to view the proceedings and record the sound, but they leave space for the minister or family to conduct the service and try to avoid being noticed. Since everyone must socially distance at this time, it’s pretty easy to blend in.

Those who wish to view the service simply have to visit the company’s website, click on the deceased’s page, and then view the proceedings. They have to know the time and place for the live streaming, but Bardal says that if they miss the service, the recording remains on the site for several months so people can go back and view it.

“This is something that is here to stay,” he says. “I don’t have a crystal ball, but it will be a while before larger gatherings return. People are still nervous, and they are not going to jump back into large services for a while.”


Rabbi Aníbal Mass

Wed, 22 May 2024 14 Iyyar 5784