Religion & Jewish Life

PunkTorah announces fundraising launch of OneShul, the first completely online synagogue

ATLANTA — PunkTorah has announced the fundraising launch for, the world’s first web-based, community ran synagogue.

OneShul was inspired by group of PunkTorah volunteers who began meeting online to daven with one another, using PunkTorah’s recently released Indie Yeshiva Pocket Siddur (available online and through With the popularity of this “DIY Prayer Service” came the idea for a virtual synagogue without borders, based on collective Jewish values and spiritual independence.

“Synagogues are shutting down for the same reason that brick-and-mortar business are closing,” says Executive Director Patrick Aleph. “People live online and if you believe in being where people are, then you need to be there, too.”

Says PunkTorah Creative Director and “Alterna-Rebbe” Michael Sabani, “OneShul is an open synagogue for all of us to congregate, learn, lead, and empower each other. Traditional Jewish organizations and leaders have said that real community can’t be achieved online, or as they see it, synthetically. We challenge that notion. We say that yes, real community means communicating with each other in a meaningful way and that can be done online. We are proving it right now.”

OneShul is “independent” meaning that it does not tow a party line to any of the established Jewish movements. Instead, by being community ran, participants get to decide what kind of minyanim to make, the style of worship, etc. PunkTorah hopes that OneShul will be a diverse place, where all Jewish opinions are appreciated.

OneShul offers live, interactive afternoon prayer services and Jewish classes, led by different members of the PunkTorah community via UStream. PunkTorah hopes to expand OneShul into something much larger, providing Kabbalat Shabbat, more holiday services, an “indie yeshiva” of Jewish books and blogs that are written collaboratively by volunteers, spiritual counseling via skype, a mobile davening app for the iPhone/iPad, tzedakah and tikkun olam programs, OneShul outreach houses across the country, volunteering and internship opportunities for students interested in Jewish communal service, and a launching pad for the spiritual future of the New Jew community. “Everything that a physical synagogue has, but better,” says Aleph.

To make this happen, PunkTorah has launched a fundraising drive through and plans to raise $5,000 to create the “synagogue of the future.”

With OneShul, PunkTorah is challenging the notion that community only exists in neighborhoods. Says Michael Sabani, “Which community is more real? The one where I show up once a week and sit next to what is essentially a stranger, say ‘Shabbat shalom’ and then leave? Or the one I am in constant contact with through Facebook and Skype, who I know I can turn to in a time of need?”

To learn more about PunkTorah’s OneShul project, visit

PunkTorah is a non-profit (501c3-pending) organization dedicated to independent Jewish spirituality, culture, learning and debate.