While organizers of the Siyum HaShas declined to create a live feed from MetLife Stadium for the thousands of people who were unable to attend the event, one young man took matters, literally, into his own hands and one small act of chesed, intended to benefit a few friends, turned into a five hour long live stream that was ultimately seen by tens of thousands of viewers.
JJ Eleff’s original plan had been to stream perhaps one speaker, maybe two, to a group of online friends at the Dan’s Deals forum. The twenty one year old from Cleveland, who currently lives in Brooklyn and is studying for smicha while also preparing for his LSATs, had no idea how to run a live stream, but said that it took just a few minutes to set up an account with Ustream.com.
Armed with just a cell phone, a spare battery and a charger, Eleff began streaming live from MetLife Stadium during Mincha and was shocked when, over time, the number of viewers grew exponentially, with tens of thousands of people tuning into his stream during the night.
“I never expected anything like this,” Eleff told VIN News. “It was just one small act of kindness I was doing for a few friends and in the end thousands of people benefitted from it. You never know the power of one act of chesed. This whole thing is just so humbling when I realize how each of us has the potential to affect the lives of others.”
A link to the stream was posted on VIN News and as viewers clicked in by the thousands, they posted comments on VIN expressing their gratitude to the as yet unnamed streamer, for giving them the ability to share in the Siyum in a meaningful way, including one from one man who spent the evening at home, watching the Siyum with his young teenage son, who was stricken with cancer.
Other comments on the site were equally moving.
“I have to admit watching Rav Lau’s speech and seeing so many Jews dancing with such emotion ignited me to think what made me leave this beautiful community?,” wrote one off the derech teenager.
“I had emergency surgery just before the Siyum, and was very upset that I was going to miss it since I was stuck at home in bed,” wrote community activist Zvi Gluck. “I called the phone number to listen, but something was missing. It wasn’t like I was there. I emailed a few friends and asked if anyone could stream video for me, so I could feel like the rest of Klal Yisroel, and see what they see. A few tried, but it kept getting cut off. Then a friend emailed me the VIN News link and said that someone was live streaming the Siyum from a mobile device. I clicked it, and I was ecstatic. I felt like I was there, or as close as I was able to be. Here I was in bed, unable to speak or move and I was able to watch and hear the amazing Kiddush Hashem taking place: hearing words from Gedolim, and seeing all different types of Yidden from all different backgrounds, sitting together, dancing together, being inspired and really being ONE nation.”
Seventy five percent of the views received came from the link posted on VIN News.
“The power of the web, when used for spreading the word of Hashem, should be far more embraced in our community,” said the editor of VIN News. “There is no question that Hashem has sent us this technology and that we should utilize it to spread yiddishkeit and show the world the beauty of Judaism.”
Eleff began the live stream at 7:30 and noticed within minutes that he had a handful of viewers.
“I figured it was the guys from the forum and I told them to feel free to share the link, though I warned them there were no guarantees how long it would go on for,” said Eleff.
Within ten minutes, Eleff was surprised to notice that there were twenty five viewers and when the number of viewers hit one hundred, Eleff realized that with so many people counting on him, he felt the obligation to continue the stream for as long as possible.
“I watched the numbers grow and I found out later that there were hundreds of tweets telling people about the stream. When the link got posted on Vos Iz Neias, I saw the numbers start jumping into the thousands.”
The link to the live stream was eventually posted on other news sites as well and according to Eleff, the Siyum HaShas stream was the most watched feed on Ustream that day.
Thankfully, Eleff, who has an unlimited data plan and streamed over one gigabyte of data during the Siyum, had brought along a spare battery for his Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which he left charging in the nearby concourse, swapping out the battery between speakers.
“Can you imagine at a football game if someone had left a battery charging in the walkway, just sitting there?” queried Eleff. “It felt totally natural to leave my charger there and not have to worry about someone taking it. It stayed there for five hours and no one even touched it.”
Eleff, who had taken a New Jersey Transit train to the Siyum, kept on streaming even after announcers warned all commuters that the last trains would be leaving shortly.
“Baruch Hashem, there ended up being a later train,” said Eleff. “It never even occurred to me to leave.”
Thirty six hours after the Siyum, Eleff admitted that his arm still aches from the five hour live stream, but that he is still on a high.
Eleff was buoyed the tremendous achdus he saw at the Siyum.
“There was one guy, a total stranger, who asked to remain anonymous, who held the phone for ten minutes during one of the speeches, just so I could get a drink of water and stretch a little,” recalled Eleff. “He was wearing a gold Chai necklace and a sports cap and held the phone for me during Maariv so that I could daven.”
“If was the best Maariv Shmone Esria of my entire life,” added Eleff.