Changing from a traditional yahrzeit display can be a delicate issue, one that may bring up strong feelings in many synagogue members. Nobody wants to feel that their history is being erased. A good way to initiate the process is for the Rabbi to lead a discussion with the congregation about the possibility of making the change, ideally with the aid of pictures/video to demonstrate the benefits. After that, it’s important to listen to the concerns of the community. It’s also key to emphasize how much you wants your congregants to share the biographies and photographs of loved ones who have passed on so that their precious personal histories can be preserved for future generations.
As members get past the “newness” issue and begin to appreciate everything an interactive display offers, concern tends to focus on a single question: what will happen with our current yahrzeit display? There’s no one right answer to this question. Some synagogues keep their existing display exactly as is, simply adding the interactive screen to enhance their traditional wall. Other synagogues choose to retire the old display completely and transfer all names to the new digital display. Original metal name plaques can be given back to family members, or respectfully buried.
Congregations can also consider a third option – to remove and then remount all the name plaques on new wooden boards without light bulbs. These handsome new boards can be configured in a formation around the new yahrzeit screen. This is a compromise solution that often ends up uniting disagreeing factions of congregants, plus creating a memorial that attractively marries the old with the new.
Whatever choice a congregation makes, it’s important not to force the decision. Let all voices be heard first. Gradually the feelings of the majority will manifest, and a choice can be made for the good of the entire congregation. We at Yahrzeit Interactive have personally been through this process and are happy to advise you further.