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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rabbi reaches out with YouTube videos

WESTMINSTER - Rabbi Benjy Brackman is preparing for the Jewish holiday of Purim.

This week, he will don a traditional costume and recite the religious message he has written and memorized before a video recorder.

You won't hear this message at any synagogue. But you can find it on YouTube.com.

Brackman, who leads the Chabad of Northwest Denver, has turned to a novel use of the Internet to get his message across.

So, mixed in with the videos of rock bands, people playing air guitar, stupid human tricks and the vast array of self-posted videos on the site, there are two short messages from Brackman to his followers so far.

The 34-year-old London native is the first to admit they are not exactly polished performances. But for his modest purpose, they appear to be working. He's embedded them on his Web site at thechabadhouse.com/youtube.

"At this point, it's just me and the camera. I do as many takes as necessary," Brackman said Monday. "You know, us rabbis, we're not trained for this."

For Brackman, his modest venture into self-broadcasting is a natural extension of his efforts to do outreach.

When he was studying to become a rabbi in Brooklyn N.Y., his religious leader used to broadcast messages worldwide via a set of satellite dishes.

Brackman's efforts are far more modest. But he likes to add a personal touch.

So, in one message aimed at inviting people to a summer camp, he is seen wearing a T-shirt on a cold day standing next to a snow- covered field.

He is also not above a bit of stage play. In his other video, in which he announces a Shabbat program, his talk to the camera is "interrupted" by a staged phone call from a congregant to whom he explains all the details of the program.

Brackman said he even finds himself now studying the body language of television reporters as they deliver the news.

"There's a real skill to this," he observed. "You've got to find that fine line between real comfortable but upfront with what you have to say."

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