Since 1930, Temple Beth Israel (TBI) has been shaping Jewish life in Melbourne. But from a technology perspective, its 25 year-old AV system was no longer meeting the needs of its increasingly savvy congregation.

So the time was right to provide the community with more flexible sanctuary spaces, effortless listening conditions and access to new-format services and events.

Integrating a hi-tech solution into a traditional, low-tech environment requires a champion. And at TBI, that champion is Rabbi Gersh. He’s not just happy to indulge the use of technology at his synagogue – he’s genuinely enthusiastic about its potential for the future of his synagogue.

The brief

The brief was to create an audio-system with better speech intelligibility and music clarity –with the flexibility to mic up individuals, acoustic instruments and a choir. What’s more, all the technology had to be visually aesthetic and discreet.

Our approach

The key for Urban Intelligence was to observe the synagogue’s routines and build those observations into pre-sets in the control system.

But not every aspect of the synagogue’s proceedings are predictable. Occasionally a multi-faith choir or a band will be invited to play. And until now, this was aesthetically messy and acoustically unpredictable.

The result is a meticulously planned and integrated AV system that represents a perfect fit for purpose.

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The solution

TBI’s new sound system provides high speech intelligibility to every seat in the house. The sound is natural and comfortable – with crystalline clarity.

What’s more, synagogue staff can place wireless microphones and instruments where they want, confident the system will be stable and without feedback.  According to Urban Intelligence director, Lior Rauchberger:

‘Congregants report that it’s the first time they’ve properly heard a service in 40 years!’

And according  to Rabbi Gersh:

‘You can be in any seat in the room and feel like you’re sitting a metre away from me. In fact, it feels like the sound is specifically yours. That really changes the experience.’

And for the hearing-impaired, the synagogue’s hearing augmentation system allows sound to be picked up through the PA system’s microphone – instead of their hearing aid’s internal one. Listeners enjoy clear signals without any background noise, every time.

But what use is a great sound system unless it’s intuitive and simple to use? Well, Urban Intelligence wouldn’t have it any other way.

TBI’s custom-built iPad interface allows staff to run almost every aspect of a service without technical operators.

As Rabbi Gersh explains:

‘The ability to go into our digital system from an iPad makes us adaptable while running. That’s been extraordinary. And it’s changed everything we do. I recently stood next to our lectern and saw an elderly lady in the second row straining to hear her grandchild publicly reading from the Torah. Without anyone noticing, I reached for the iPad and just went tap, tap tap. The lady began leaning back until she was relaxed with a beaming smile on her face.’

Integral to the project was also a video capture system that’s a breeze to use. Every Saturday, Rabbi Gersh presses ‘GO’ on the vision streaming and recording and the main camera (wide, front shot) streams live from the synagogue’s website.

When he presses ‘STOP’, the video recordings are backed up and accessible to the synagogue’s front office. The feeds can then be saved onto a USB stick and presented to families who may choose to have their special events edited and post-produced.

Rauchberger explains:

‘The audio from these recordings is exceptional. With any high-gain mics there’s always the spectre of background hiss, but the capture and sync at TBI is of an unbelievably high quality,’

Also, by special request of Rabbi Gersh, he has a BlueTooth connection which allows him to stream music (or anything he likes) straight from his smartphone. ‘I keep it off except for when I need it. Otherwise teenagers in the congregation may discover it during a service – and I’d hate to think what they might choose to play,’ jokes Rabbi Gersh.

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The final word from Rabbie Gersh Lazarow

‘A heartfelt thanks to Urban Intelligence for bringing age-old traditions and new-age technology together seamlessly at TBI. The team interpreted our brief accurately and their approach was respectful and consultative through every stage – from design and installation to training and handover. Thanks to Urban Intelligence, our community now receives best possible audio and visual experience at our synagogue.’

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