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YouTube latest tool used by rabbi to spread the word

He joins a wave of leaders from many religions using the ever-popular site.

By EILEEN SCHULTE
Published March 4, 2007


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When Rabbi Shalom Adler first heard about YouTube, he said he "thought it was a water park."

But he soon learned the video-download page is one of the most popular sites on the Web.

Now Adler, director of Young Israel-Chabad of Pinellas County, hopes Internet surfers will bypass those clips, opting instead for his videos that feature Torah lessons, news and a little bit of humor.

For the first time this week, two 60-second clips Adler recorded were uploaded on YouTube for all the world to see.

Jewish leaders believe Adler is the first Pinellas County rabbi to use YouTube, though he joins the company of a Hillsborough County spiritual leader, Rabbi Lazar Rivkin of Chabad/Young Israel of Tampa.

"We in the Chabad movement believe that technology is not the enemy, but should be used in the service of God and bringing people together," said Adler.

Chabad is a conservative Jewish movement born 250 years ago as a branch of Hasidism.

Stuart Berger, financial resource development director for the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County, said as far as the organization knows, Adler is the first rabbi in Pinellas County to use YouTube.

"I think anything that spreads the news about the Jewish community in a positive light is a good thing," Berger said.

Adler, who has led Young Israel Chabad for 19 years, loves to tell jokes and interjected some comedy into his video clips.

"We have a great community in our area with a wonderful shul ... but there are some misconceptions about us," he said. "People tell me, Rabbi, you have no class. That's not true. We've got lots of classes going on from Talmud and Jewish mysticism and law. There's something for everybody. Other people say to me, Rabbi, you're not a party animal. I beg to differ. When it comes to Passover, Purim, Hanukkah, we have lots of great parties."

In the second video, Adler discusses one party, a bowling event called Purim Bowl taking place tonight in honor of Purim, which commemorates the rescue of the Jews of Persia from a wicked minister named Haman who planned to execute them.

On the video, Adler also invites the public to a Purim USA celebration on Sunday.

Adler's efforts join tens of thousands of videos uploaded daily to YouTube, the company reports.

In a statement from the company, officials said YouTube has created a new vehicle for people to share information with a vast worldwide audience in a way never possible before.

They said the Web site is seeing more and more users share content not just for entertainment value, but also for other practical means.

Religious leaders across the United States and beyond are using the site to spread their messages.

As of this week, there were 7,280 videos with a Jewish theme, 53,000 with a Christian theme and 15,700 with a Muslim theme in the YouTube catalog.

Rabbi Levi Hodakov, program director at the synagogue and a techno whiz, urged Adler to use it to attract new members to the shul and inform current members about activities and services.

"There is a Jewish saying: One cannot compare hearing to seeing," Hodakov said.

Adler's videos can be accessed at www.youtube.com and typing in "Rabbi Adler" in the search box or by visiting the shul's Web site at www.yichabad.com.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at 727 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 3, 2007, 19:34:48]


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