Since the Vilna Shul closed the doors to its 18 Phillips St. headquarters last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boston’s Center for Jewish Culture has launched “Virtual Vilna,” bringing its programming online to more than 1,200 visitors in just the first two weeks.
“When everyone became homebound, we decided it was time to launch a virtual initiative, and it’s been met with immense success,” said LynneKrasker Schultz, director of communications. “It provides the opportunity to reach people who wouldn’t have the physical ability to walk through our doors. People from Costa Rica, Spain and Israel have attended programs, and from the U.S., we’ve had people from Cincinnati, Chicago, San Francisco, San Antonio and all up and down the East Coast, including, of course, all over the Boston area.”
“Virtual Vilna” offerings to date have included “Meditation through a Jewish Lens,” Jewish genealogy, challah baking and adult education classes, among other programming made available through the Zoom and Facebook platforms, and new content is being added to The Vila Shul website on a daily basis, such as a live reading by author Susan Solomont from her children’s book “Stella the Ambassadog” on Tuesday, April 14, at 9:30 a.m.
The Vilna Shul is also soliciting suggestions for new classes and programming from the public via email at [email protected], and, in response to one suggestion, has enlisted the Yiddish Bookstore in Amherst to design the curriculum for a program on Yiddish film that will launch after Passover.
“For the most part, people are thankful for the opportunity to engage in programming and learning opportunities they might not otherwise have had access to,” Schultz said. “For lots of people, hopping onto a class at noon in the middle of a workday to learn about a subject like Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) prior to the coronavirus epidemic wasn’t feasible, but now it is, and we’ve had some great feedback.”
On the Vilna Shul website, one guest wrote after joining a video class with Layah Lipsker: “I was very surprised at the sense of community that one class gave me. In addition to the interesting content, this was a real blessing to me.”
Online content was previously limited to the occasional video clip or live stream from a portion of a program, but this virtual initiative has ushered in a new era for The Vilna Shul.
“It’s like the silver lining in all this blackness,” Shultz said.
To learn more about The Vilna Shul, or to register for “Virtual Vilna” programming, visit vilnashul.org.