In the fall of 2019, I began to document the New Shul, which was
founded in 1999 as a progressive and independent Jewish community with unique
customs and events. The congregation celebrates its Judaism in modern and
divergent ways, reevaluating the “old traditions.”
In March 2020, however, my documentation was abruptly interrupted
by the plague: the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Shul’s subsequent transition to
online services offered this already ultramodern congregation a new level
of togetherness, bringing the community even closer than before. Surprisingly,
it also offered a new level of intimacy and picture-making—I have been
carefully curating screen shots of normally inaccessible moments.
The weekly Friday services, which include Middle Eastern folk
music, breathing exercises, traditional candle lighting, prayer, community
dialogue, and a 7:00 p.m. communal cheer for the city’s essential workers,
attracted twice the number of attendants as the “real” in-person services. Promoting art, community, and technology as
means of accessing spirituality, the New Shul suggests that faith, itself, helps
us to get by during times like these, regardless of where one finds it.