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Reform Judaism needs its own 24-hour television network

Cantor Jessica (Fox) Epstein

February 2002

 Iíve had digital cable for about a year and itís great.  It gives you the ability to flip through what is playing on other channels without actually changing the channel. Iím a flipper, so even when Iím watching something I wonder if something better is playing elsewhere. In the course of my flipping I always pass through Channel 54 EWTV with wonder. 

EWTV is the television network of the American Roman Catholic Church. It is impressive. There are live masses shown throughout the day and there are rosary recitations scrolled over scenes of the Galilee.  Itís like a religious CSPAN meets MTV.  There are talk-shows, explanations of liturgy, profiles of saints, music shows, teen shows, books reviews, a Catholic author series and even a call-in show to a crusty no-nonsense nun named Mother Angelica.


Monday-Friday 3:30pm: The Aleph Bet Club

Turn it on when you come home from elementary school for a half-hour Hebrew show with songs, stories, letters and a word of the day. It keeps kidís letter recognition fresh from Sunday to Sunday and gives them something else to watch besides violent Japanimaton. Think Sesame Street but with less Spanish and more Hebrew. 

Monday-Friday 4:30pm: Shireinu (Our Songs)

A program for teens and pre-teens with Jewish singer/songwriters like Doug Cotler, Rick Recht, Yom Hadash and Debbie Friedman. The latest hits from the camps of Reform Judaism could be played with videos, explanations of the songs and their deeper meanings, and cool ultra-hip hosts. Think TRL but with fewer belly-buttons and more yarmulkes. 

Services: Shacharit/Mincha/Maíariv

For shut-ins, the ill or anyone who wants to pray but canít leave home, you can pray morning, noon and night when services are broadcast from different Reform synagogues live. Services from Bínai Jeshurun in Short Hills and Temple Emanuel are already broadcast on the radio Ė why not have a video feed from a rotating list of temple willing to provide this service?

 Tuesdays 7:30pm How We Pray with Rabbi Ploni ben Ploni

Interested in understanding the liturgy? Tune in weekly as Rabbi Ploni takes us through the structure of the prayerbook for Shabbat. 

Wednesday 8:00pm Tiyul with Rabbi Shira Simcha

Explore Israel with Rabbi Simcha as she explores the homeland of the Jewish people each week.

We could program holiday recipe shows, tours of knish factories, show Jewish movies, Jewish arts and crafts shows, as well as political discussions and commentary. In short, everything that would entertain, education and inform in a Reform Jewish context. 

Judaism is not something we can relegate to Friday nights and Sunday mornings -- for better or worse, we spend our lives in front of the television. Canít we use this technology to enhance our Jewish lives? There were once Yiddish Radio stations all over the country. There are now new Jewish websites every week. There is so much to learn, to explore and to enjoy. I have a dream. I want to flip through the digital channels and find a Reform station. 

Hey, I can dream, canít I?

 Who knows? Maybe we could call it WTNT, Your Jewish Home on the Air.