The creator of YouTube "channels" launched a new online video platform for learning on Tuesday, taught by a roster of iconic artists and celebrities from Madonna to Deepak Chopra.
Bright is the L.A.-based brainchild of Guy Oseary — investor and music manager for acts including Madonna and U2 — and Michael Powers, who was behind "channels." Their new platform focuses on livestreamed, interactive teaching sessions.
At launch, Bright boasts over 200 hosts, whose source of fame and following spans the traditional to the digital. Madonna, Ashton Kutcher, Amy Schumer, the D'Amelio Sisters, Judd Apatow and Deepak Chopra are among current instructors.
"At YouTube, we saw that 20% of video views were learning content from individual creators," Powers said in a statement. "There is an incredible appetite to learn from other people and I wanted to develop a platform that provided more interaction and intimacy."
Initial courses include a "Tell Your Story" guest interview program hosted by actress Laura Dern and "Champions Talk" with basketball analyst Kenny Smith, who will interview athletes about their competitive psychology. The stars of reality show "Property Brothers" offer a course on home design, and Ronnie2K — known for offering tips for winning video games — offers tips on how to build a gaming career.
Hosts on Bright will develop a curriculum and set the schedule, class-size and price, of which Bright will take a 20% cut. Courses will fall into one of six categories: body, mind, culture, home, money and craft.
The company was founded in mid-2020. Oseary's Sound Ventures, which he co-founded with Ashton Kutcher, is the lead investor. RIT Capital, Norwest, Globo and Slow Ventures also participated in the seed round. The company did not disclose how much it has raised.
There's no shortage of competing platforms. MasterClass also sells celebrity-led courses, and just raised a $100 million Series E round of funding. Bright is seeking to differentiate itself by offering live, interactive sessions it bills as more akin to conversations, and Oseary is leveraging his rolodex to power the company.
Powers, intimately familiar with Google-owned YouTube, thinks Bright can provide a boost to creators and celebrities that other platforms cannot.
"The fact that creators don't even know who their core audience is, because these ad-driven platforms won't tell them, means they can't take their business to the next level," he said.
In addition to its 200 initial hosts, Bright says it has over 1,500 more on its waitlist. Apart from a handful of them who are company advisors, they did not receive financial incentives to join.
Bright is the L.A.-based brainchild of Guy Oseary (right) — investor and music manager for acts including Madonna and U2 — and Michael Powers, who was behind YouTube "channels."
Instead, Powers said, what attracted them is the opportunity to expand their business of being a celebrity and strengthen their fan relationships. When Bright users opt-in to updates about a host's courses, they also consent to sending their contact information.
"That allows the creators to then take those people to their mailing list. They can take them to their Shopify shop," said Powers. "Whatever they have going on in their business, they can connect those people into that bigger universe of things they're doing."
It's a contrast to what many other video platforms do, particularly those whose business is selling ads.
"When you have an ad-driven platform from the beginning, the ownership of the relationship of your audience is fundamentally with the platform," said Powers.
"Is a Google sales team going to truly value an individual high-profile creator on their platform?" he added, implying their primary constituent of interest is the advertiser.
Bright is built atop Zoom, using the video chat company's software development kit through its partnership program. Bright will add customized features that, for example, allow hosts to invite users to speak with them "on stage."
Working under Powers, who will be Bright's CEO, is a team with experience at numerous tech companies, including Caffeine, Instagram, Pinterest, Apple and Facebook.
"I was there at the beginning of the creative economy coming in on YouTube," said Powers, "and now it's time for them to go even further."
Montgomery Summit Updates: Zynga Hunting Gaming Acquisitions; Moxie the Robot Looks to Partner with Schools
This year's Montgomery Summit – held online this year for the first time - features Eric Yuan, CEO & founder of Zoom, author Deepak Chopra, Darius Adamczyk, CEO of Honeywell, and Jim Whitehurst, president of IBM.
There will be about 100 hours of content available exclusive to those who have paid and registered, but, for the first time, 12 hours of plenary sessions will be free for anyone to stream on YouTube, opening panels to a much bigger audience around the world.
- Video Game Maker Zynga On Hunt for Acquisitions
- Maker of Moxie Robot Looks to Raise $50M, Partner with Schools
- Thanks to Pandemic, Incoming Qualcomm CEO Sees 'Golden Era for Telecom
- Glitches: Audio Static Disrupts Cox Enterprise CEO Presentation
Video Game-Maker Zynga Is Hunting Acquisitions
Video game-maker Zynga's president, Bernard Kim, said the cash-rich company is on the hunt for acquisitions.
"We have a pretty healthy balance sheet," said Kim, pointing to the $1.5 billion on the books. "We're heavy in the hunt for acquisitions."
San Francisco-based Zynga, which has an office of 20 employees in Culver City, announced earlier this week that it had acquired Echtra Games Inc., a San Francisco-based video game developer. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition is the latest in a string of seven in the past five years, according to Kim. The Echtra purchase continues the company's strategy of growing through deals.
Last month, Zynga pushed further into PCs and consoles with the announcement of its "Star Wars: Hunters" game. The studio is working with developer NaturalMotion Games to release "Star Wars: Hunters" this year for Nintendo Switch, which is a handheld gaming console.
"I guess you can consider us as a consolidator, but it's not really like that. It's really just around expanding the family," said Kim, adding that Zynga has done three acquisitions in the past year during the pandemic.
Zynga has always been in the driver's seat in the video gaming world.
"A lot of companies had counted us out, the industry counted us out, and we sat in a proverbial engine room, and just grinded out questions and like just solved problems," Kim recalled of the game maker's tough times.
Back in 2013, Zynga laid off more than 500 employees — roughly a fifth of its workforce -- and closed offices in Dallas, New York and Los Angeles..
"It all starts snowballing, and we kind of had those moments like, 'Wow, we can't do anything right.' We won this award, —like, the worst company in America — two years in a row, but we emerged from that," he said. "We had these dark moments as a company and now things are kind of snowballing into this positive momentum story."
Kim didn't discuss any potential targets while speaking on a video gaming panel at Thursday's virtually held Montgomery Summit.
"You know, we aren't going to slow down. And that's the really exciting time when things start really moving in the right direction. It could be a really great moment to double down and have more fun."
Maker of Moxie Robot Looks to Raise $50M, Partner with Schools
Paolo Pirjanian, co-founder and CEO of Pasadena-based Embodied Inc., disclosed plans on Thursday that his privately held robot maker business began talks this week to raise an additional $50 million in venture funding.
His company, which makes a robot companion to help kids learn, has raised a total of $44 million from investors including Amazon, Intel, Sony and Toyota.
Pirjanian, a former chief technology officer of iRobot Corp., a Bedford, Mass.-based technology company that designs and builds consumer robots, such as vacuum cleaners and mops, launched Embodied back in 2016.
Embodied's robot companion, called Moxie, can have conversations with kids to help them learn. It is designed to interact with kids and help with social, emotional and cognitive development, while parents connect via an app.
"It's a physical robot that interacts with children in the 5- to 10-year old range, that have been diagnosed with disorders like autism, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and so on," said Pirjanian.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a chronic condition including attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.
Pirjanian said that his company plans to explore the use of Moxie with pediatric hospitals, or clinical care facilities for coping with pain and stress. Discussions also are underway with one of the nation's largest school districts to put Moxie in the classroom, Pirjanian said.
"The next big wave is going to be driven by social machine interfaces," said Pirjanian, who made the comments at a panel discussion on innovation in Southern California at the virtually held Montgomery Summit.
Thanks to Pandemic, Incoming Qualcomm CEO Sees 'Golden Era' for Telecom
Cristiano Amon, president and CEO-elect of Qualcomm Inc., a San Diego-based maker of chips and software for wireless technology, thinks we're entering a "new golden era of telecom," fueled partially by a coronavirus pandemic that could accelerate 5G rollouts.
"Telecom kept the world working," said Amon, who is expected to take the helm of Qualcomm in June.
"Without a 5G network, without a 5G infrastructure, none of this is possible. And especially as governments emerge from the pandemic, the importance of prioritizing crucial infrastructure that will be part of the future digital economy of many nations, it is very important for 5G's success," the executive said.
Amon made his comments Thursday at the virtually held Montgomery Summit tech conference.
In telecommunications, 5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, which cellular phone companies began deploying worldwide in 2019. It is the planned successor to the 4G networks which provide connectivity to most current cellphones.
"It is indeed one of the largest opportunities we ever had," said Amon, who noted the resilience of the company's workforce to work remotely during the pandemic, and keep its business humming.
Amon, who climbed the ladder within Qualcomm's chip side of the business, noted that at the height of the pandemic that shut down large chunks of the world last year, roughly 90% of its own workers were at home connected computers on its far-flung tech empire.
"So, we were able to connect all of our labs and people," he said. "What would take the broader society, and I'm speaking from our experience in dealing with 3G or 4G [technology], sometimes it will take about five to 10 years to recognize the benefit and the potential technology that was accomplished in two quarters [of 2020]."
Anon also noted that Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of Qualcomm, continues to invest in technologies that transform industries.
"We just put our money where our mouth is, and we look in investing in areas that are going to benefit some of the technology transitions we're very focused on, or also create new industries," he said.
In total, Qualcomm Ventures has invested $1.5 billion and made 360 investments since its launch in 2000. Some of the investments include unicorns like San Jose-based video conferencing firm Zoom, San Francisco-based website security firm Cloudflare, China-based online chat firm Xiaomi and Fitbit, a San Francisco-based consumer electronics and fitness company.
Glitches: Audio Static Disrupts Cox Enterprise CEO Presentation
The Montgomery Summit, one of Southern California's most anticipated tech conferences, got a reminder on Thursday that going virtual isn't as simple as it sounds.
The audio for the fireside chat with Cox Enterprises CEO Alex Taylor went dead after 15 minutes into a half-hour presentation. Technicians attempted to deal with a loud static noise that interrupted the interview.
Several attendees commented on a message board that the static interference was so loud that the conversation was inaudible. Another poster noted that Apple earbuds worn by Tom Giles, Bloomberg executive editor of technology, could have been the culprit.
After the audio was turned off after about 15 minutes into the Taylor chat, operators of the website broadcasting the summit posted a note on the session.
"Due to an audio malfunction, we will share the interview between Alex Taylor and Tom Giles on The Montgomery Summit YouTube page after the conference," the statement read.
Before the audio went silent, Taylor had been discussing a broad number of topics, including Cox's move into cable – its biggest revenue generator – automotive services, and the importance of newspapers, although Cox has shed all of its paper properties.
"I still believe that a newspaper, for whatever the political slant of its editorial pages, is the best source of actual facts, because you have so many levels of editorial judgment going on in that process, and it's hard to get inaccuracies," Taylor observed.
'We Got Punched in the Face': How Peek.com Is Recovering From COVID
Ruzwana Bashir, co-founder and CEO of Peek.com, got off to a good start with her trip-booking company, which is backed by heavyweights Eric Schmidt of Google and Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square.
A year ago, Peek.com was flying high with $1 billion in bookings. The service lets travelers and locals find and book activities online of via cell phones, including tours, wine tastings, kayaking, helicopter tours, ziplining, horseback riding and lessons of all sorts.
Then COVID-19 hit. Stay-at-home restrictions were imposed throughout the world and domestic travel came to a virtual halt as people sought safety from the pandemic.
"We got punched in the face," Bashir said. "It was a pretty scary time... We did a small layoff. We laid off 30% of our team."
Based in San Francisco, the eight-year-old company has raised roughly $50 million in venture capital funding. But it wasn't certain it would get through the hard times.
Then the summer came, and Peek began seeing a surge in bookings. People were tired of staying indoors and wanted to get out, Bashir explained.
"We are the backbone of these businesses," she added. "It took a level head to get through this, make tough changes. It took a lot of resilience and persistence to get through this."
With the federal government now saying that it could vaccinate all adults by the end of May, Peek.com's Bashir is beginning to see a resurgence in business bookings again this summer. "When we look at the travel space, there is a need," she said. "Campgrounds and RV parks are now even coming in and saying they need our software."
'We've Got to Be Paranoid': Zoom's Founder Offers Leadership Advice to Startup Execsmacbook pro displaying group of peoplePhoto by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash
Eric Yuan, president and chairman of Silicon Valley-based Zoom Video Communications, took a break Wednesday from his company's highly touted video conferencing business to deliver some nut-and-bolt tips on executive success and leadership.
Answering questions from former Cisco chief John Chambers, who now runs San Jose-based JC2 Ventures, Yuan noted that his bedside reading has yielded profound success and helped him develop as a leader.
He cited two management and self-help books as key.
They are "Crossing the Chasm," a marketing book written by Geoffrey A. Moore that focuses on the specifics of marketing high tech products during the early start up period; and "Speed of Trust," written by Stephen M.R. Covey that serves as "a guide to business leaders, public figures and their organizations towards unprecedented productivity and satisfaction.
"I read Geoff's book twice," said Yuan, who agreed with Chambers' suggestion that anyone in a startup role should read the book.
But "Speed of Trust," said Yuan, gives startups like Zoom a strong foundation to build on. "At Zoom, a lot of [our employees] work from home, so how do you build trust? It's really hard."
In building a business, founders need to think about the company's "value," he said, as a key facet.
"It's hard to build trust. You need social interaction, but you do that with eye contact. Video is really hard."
Yuan said that building a company takes a lot of time speaking with customers, because they could change their buying decisions quickly. "We've got to be paranoid."
Yuan, who moved from China to the Silicon Valley in the late 1990s, founded Zoom in 2011.
Prior to Zoom, Yuan was corporate vice president of engineering at Cisco, where he was responsible for Cisco's collaboration software development. He was also one of the founding engineers and vice president of engineering at Webex, a video conferencing application.
"My story is pretty straightforward," Yuan said.
Yuan made his comments on the first day of the virtually held Montgomery Summit, one of Southern California's largest gatherings of tech investors and executives of the year.
San Jose-based Zoom, which just two days ago reported profits and revenues for its January quarter that beat Wall Street estimates, raised 2022 guidance to $3.77 billion in revenue, up from $3.53 billion.
Zoom became a household name as the COVID-19 pandemic forced lockdowns across the globe. A steep rise in coronavirus cases during and after the holidays intensified business restrictions and forced many workplaces to reconsider reopening in 2021.
Honeywell CEO Bullish on 2021, M&A Not Slowing Down
Honeywell inked a deal to produce Long Beach-based Dimer's GermFalcon last year.
The pandemic limited some of Honeywell's typical tire-kicking while cutting deals, but the global conglomerate still saw a flurry of recent acquisitions and its CEO Darius Adamczykis is optimistic about a resurgent economy in 2021.
"2021 will be a transitional year, and 2020 was a crisis year," he said.
Among the deals made last year, Honeywell inked a licensing partnership with Long Beach-based Dimer to produce a UV-C light machine, the GermFalcon, that sanitizes airplane cabinets.
"Conditions generally are positive," said Adamczyk, noting that the uptick in "normal" business is expected to swing back noticeably in the second half of the year, coincidentally timed to when Honeywell is expected to open a new corporate headquarters in North Carolina.
Adamczyk said one of his bigger concerns is whether there will be "enough capacity to handle the surge" in growth.
Notably, the $145-billion market-capitalization corporation has made a handful of acquisitions at a time when COVID-19 has limited some of the typical due diligence processes. In fact, M&A activity slowed somewhat last year – though not for Honeywell.
"Acquisitions are more difficult in this environment," he said. "You can't go to facilities and meet with people."
In the case of its Sparta Systems acquisition last month, said Adamczyk, "We knew so much about it. We did a comprehensive due diligence, but we had comfort in buying it."
In December, Honeywell agreed to pay $1.3 billion for New Jersey-based Sparta, an industrial software provider that specializes in life sciences. The deal was the largest acquisition engineered by Adamczyk since he took the helm nearly four years ago. The deal strengthens Honeywell's leadership in industrial automation, digital transformation solutions and enterprise performance management software.
Roughly a week before this deal, Honeywell acquired Sine Group, an Adelaide, Australia-based technology and "software as a service" – or SaaS company -- that provides visitor management, workplace and supply chain solutions that are readily accessible with mobile devices. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The company also snapped up several smaller companies last year, including the unit of Ballard Power Systems that makes fuel cells for drones.
"We are building organically, and building inorganically as well," Adamczyk said. "The more digital you are, the better you weather the storm."
Another long-term concern: "What I miss is the water cooler conversation."
Adamczyk said that Honeywell is trying to reach out with connectivity. "It's really important to stay connected."
Cybersecurity Spending Is Likely to Grow Amid High-Profile Hacks: Snyk CEO
SnykPhoto by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
The headline-grabbing security breaches uncovered in the past year will likely lead to an acceleration of cybersecurity spending, said Peter McKay, CEO of London-based developer security company Snyk.
The lifecycle in cybersecurity spending is at a very early stage, McKay observed during the first day of the virtually held Montgomery Summit, one of Southern California's largest gatherings of tech investors and executives.
"We are maybe two outs in the (bottom of the) second inning," he said. "We are very early on. If talking security, and not thinking shifting left into security development, we'll walk away and come back to talk in six months. We know where they are in their journey," said McKay of the value of waiting for clients to catch up.
McKay cited two high-profile breaches as the catalyst for more cybersecurity spending: Austin-based SolarWinds, which develops security software to monitor databases, and China's Mintegral, which develops mobile operations system applications offered in the Apple app store.
In the Mintegral case, Snyk researchers identified malicious behavior in a software development kit that was present in more than 1,200 iOS mobile operation system applications offered in the Apple App Store.
Snyk estimated that the Mintegral attack – dubbed "SourMint" involved the 1,200 iOS apps that it estimates are downloaded about 300 million times every month. The concern was that the IOS software could harvest URLs accessed through the kit and steal highly sensitive information.
"Once we understood the exposure, we talked to Apple," McKay said. "We automate as much as you can to fix vulnerabilities."
In the other case, SolarWinds provides software to monitor many features of on-premises infrastructure, including network performance, log files, configuration data, storage and servers. SolarWinds sends out regular updates and patches. Hackers were able to infiltrate the update and "trojanize" the software — meaning when customers installed the updates, the malware just went along for the ride.
"This was a paradigm-shifting event," MacKay said. "It brought a lot of attention of building security features into the lifecycle and supply chain."
Snyk's work in the security developer field has been an evolutionary one since it was founded in 2015. Two years ago, SNYK began with technology companies, then financial ones, and then health care and the media fields.
"What you are seeing now are airline or packaging companies, or very low-tech companies, which are in the process of doing a transformation of their business in a secure way. We are bringing best practices to help them make this transformation."
When one of Southern California's largest gatherings of tech investors and executives of the year in Southern California begins Wednesday it will be held virtually, just like every other event is these days.
What a difference a year makes.
Last year's Montgomery Summit, also held during the first week of March, brought together hundreds of tech titans to the upscale Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, just as the seriousness of COVID was becoming abundantly clearer every day.
It was the last time many people saw each other in the flesh. Read more >>
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Things seemed almost normal along the strip of Pico Boulevard near South Robertson, an L.A. intersection that has for decades become the center of Jewish life, especially Orthodox Jewish life. A man dressed for Shabbat walked purposefully through the quiet neighborhood this past Saturday. Others milled about visiting at a distance, or went for what appeared to be a stroll.
But this kind of scene in the age of coronavirus has set off a social-media firestorm in the community: Why are they out, and where are they going? With Passover just days away, some members of L.A.'s Orthodox Jewish community took to social media, upset over alleged secret prayer gatherings and underground efforts to celebrate the Sabbath and upcoming holiday in person. Some advocated that those who arrange these meetings along the Pico-Robertson corridor be turned into the police, according to messages and screenshots reviewed by dot.LA.
The Orthodox Jewish community is wrestling with a new era of religion, one in which people have flocked to online platforms like Zoom, live streaming social media, and pray.com for their religious needs. But that's a hard sell if you're Orthodox and strictly abide by Jewish law, which prohibits the use of electricity on Shabbat and holidays. Continued efforts to congregate in person led a rabbi at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to issue an urgent dispatch last week about "an alarmingly high ratio of Frum (Orthodox) patients among those that are positive for the disease."
In one of multiple Facebook posts on Sunday, community member Aryeh Rifkin, wrote: "If you hear about minyanim or gatherings (in person), post the names and addresses. Expose them. Don't be afraid to do the right thing. Weak leadership must be cut off especially finanically [sic]. If you have information and say nothing then you could be endangering lives."
Rifkin, who founded SKSI Plans and Permits and attended a neighborhood shul, has himself been fighting the novel coronavirus since March 18, and has been hospitalized twice because of it. One woman replied, saying her son was told by another person that he attended a community meal this past Friday with five other people. The woman did not respond to a request from dot.LA for more details. Others who did provide details were kicked out of groups and WhatsApp chains.
For weeks the debate over whether it is OK to meet has been ongoing on social media and in more private messages, as families and close-knit religious communities have tried to figure out how they will celebrate the upcoming holiday of Passover — which begins on Wednesday evening and lasts for eight days — amid the L.A. order to remain home unless for crucial necessities like food or medicine. Many in the heavily Persian-Jewish and Orthodox communities around Pico-Robertson are also ardent supporters of the Trump administration and have been slower to adopt distancing measures or believe in their necessity.
Such questions over whether ritual Passover meals, or Sedarim, could go forward, led the primary representative body of Orthodox Judaism in California, the Rabbinical Council of California, to put out a letter to rabbis and community outlets last week on this specific issue, according to a copy provided to dot.LA on Monday by Rabbi Avrohom Union, the rabbinic administrator of the RCC.
The letter noted that "all travel for any part of Yom Tov (the holiday) is forbidden, both for travel out of town or with family or friends locally."
Then, in bold, it stated that it's an absolute necessity and obligation under Jewish law, "to abide by government and health department restrictions. This is for our protection and the protection of everyone around us."
Rabbi Jason Weiner, the senior rabbi and director of the Spiritual Care Department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, also sent out a letter to community rabbis last week urging people to stay home and practice social distancing. That letter ultimately ended up being circulated on Facebook among Jewish groups.
The Modern Orthodox B'nai David-Judea Temple on W. Pico Blvd.
The rabbi said in the letter that "we are entering the most intense period of the COVID-19 outbreak and an alarmingly high ratio of Frum (Orthodox) patients are among those that are positive for the disease."
Cedars-Sinai, which was originally founded as a Jewish hospital, is also the closest major hospital to the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.
"Avoid Shabbos walks with others - no backyard minyanim, even with physical spacing!" Weiner wrote. "No play dates for children - schools are closed for a reason; this causes great danger! No guests at the sedarim - this includes family members outside of the household. With regard to the Seders, it cannot be stressed enough that only family members already living together under the same roof and in close daily contact should have the seder together."
Passover is especially difficult this year for many because it is a religious holiday that celebrates the Jewish peoples' freedom from slavery in Egypt with a gathering over a festive and ritualistic meal. Children sing songs and families have traditions that are passed on from generation to generation.
The Orthodox community has been split on whether to allow technology to "count" as the requisite congregational prayer for Shabbat and festivals during this COVID-19 pandemic, with leading rabbis deciding that it is better to pray alone than to use forbidden technologies like Zoom during such holy days.
A ruling by Israel's chief rabbis last week stated that Jews cannot use technology to pray during religious holidays has left families split and more religious members to pray at home alone. That's despite an earlier decision by prominent Sephardic rabbis in Israel to allow such technology for the Passover Seder to allow for remote gatherings amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Many slammed that letter once it became public.
But that eschewing of technology may also be leading Orthodox families or those with more Orthodox members, to decide to meet in person. New York's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods saw a swift rise in coronavirus cases due to their continued gatherings for prayer, and many Jewish-American communities have taken it as a cautionary tale.
On Saturday, Rabbi David Wolpe, a senior rabbi at L.A.'s Sinai Temple — Southern California's oldest and largest Conservative congregation, whose congregation includes a large number of Persian Jews — dedicated his Zoom sermon to pleading to those in the congregation who had plans to gather for Passover (or Pesach, in Hebrew), to cancel those plans.
"It is my understanding that there are some people in our community who are going to have a Pesach Seder with lots of people in spite of the fact that they've been instructed not to," Wolpe said. "It is to them primarily I'm speaking now."
Wolpe, who was named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, said he understands the pain of celebrating alone or through an electronic medium rather than collectively as a family.
"But I want you to know that anybody who invites people over to the Seder this year is violating Jewish law in the most serious way," Wolpe said, warning that while you may be fine, you or another invitee could be a vector for disease and devastating consequences.
"This is not the year to be a hero, this is the year to be a little afraid, this is the year to allow your intelligence and your concern and your empathy to override your ego," Wolpe said. "It is better to be sad, then to be sad and sick. It is better to be smart than to have made a decision that will haunt you the rest of your days."
Shabbat Sermon by Rabbi David Wolpe: A Passover Like No Other- 04/04/20 www.youtube.com
Conservative Jewish leaders have also grappled with how to hold services, but ultimately
decided to allow them to count because of a prevailing human need right now.
B'nai David-Judea, a modern Orthodox shul in the Pico-Robertson area, is using technology to facilitate prayer only during the weekdays and not on Shabbat or festivals. That includes having everyone gather together at a certain time to pray, even if they are alone in their home.
"We're living in a very painful time where people have a strong yearning to be close to each other and to be close to God and need to reach out for community," said Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn. "At the same time, the way in which we can be closest to each other and closest to God is by not showing up in person. And that's a spiritual tension that is jarring. That is very challenging for us to digest."
Thomas-Newborn said the synagogue has not been in the position of having to reprimand its congregants for trying to gather and has been repeatedly emphasizing the need for people to stay home.
For those who are in mourning — sitting Shiva — or observing the anniversary of a close family member's death, the inability to gather has been particularly difficult because of requirements that prayers are done with a certain number of congregants present. Zoom can help bring people together, but it doesn't "count" as if they were there.
"We've had people who have sat Shiva during this time," Thomas-Newborn said. "When they sit Shiva, we've done it on Zoom where people visit and see each other, provide words of comfort and condolence and share words of reflection."
The congregation has provided its members an alternate prayer for Kaddish, the mourners prayer, that can be said solo, instead.
Meanwhile, in Israel, a minyan of coronavirus patients who belong to Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement, have offered their services to recite the mourners prayer for those who are currently mourning or have an anniversary during this time via an online form anyone can fill in.
"Simply enter your info on this form, and Kaddish will be said on your behalf three times a day until Minyanim will be reopened around the world," the website states.
In an emotional video posted to Facebook at the end of March, Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who is in Beijing, China, spoke passionately about the need for people to stop gathering for a minyan, or congregational prayer, even if outdoors.
VIDEO 2020 03 27 18 18 44 www.youtube.com
Jewish law 'is full of the importance of a minyan," Freundlich said "Not when it comes to a pandemic. Not when peoples' lives are at risk. People are dying, but somehow people have to run to this minyan."
Freundlich noted that in Judaism, saving a life supersedes all other religious obligations, including observing the Sabbath -- and that includes requirements to gather with at least 10 adult men to pray.
"Therefore, I implore you to make sure that you don't do anything reckless or irresponsible because you want to, you feel like you want to do it," he said. "We need to be responsible. We are fighting an invisible enemy. Because you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist."
For more on religion, technology and COVID-19, read this story and watch our virtual panel here. Reach out to me on Twitter @latams, where my DMs are open, email me at tami(at)dot.la, or ask for my Signal.
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