Itamar Dotan Katz

The New Shul

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.