Friday, January 24, 2020

Shabbat Shira services and dinner

Shabbat Shira services and dinner

February 7, 2020 @ 6:30 pm - 10:00 pm

Join us for a lay-led service with lots of singing.

Stay for Kiddush and kosher-dairy dinner after services. There will be gluten-free and dairy-free options available.

This event is free.

Kindly RSVP here:

The JCJH is located at 37-06 77th Street, Jackson Heights, NY, just off 37th Avenue and across the street from P.S. 69. We look forward to seeing and singing with you there! 

Also, join us for lay-led services with lots of singing and a kiddush lunch the next morning, February 8, as well! 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Appropriate for Martin Luther King Day (I hope)

I clicked on a Facebook link that led to an article arguing that intersectionality works against Jews because Jews are seen as White.  The same day, I clicked on a Facebook link that led to an article that seemed to be saying that White people just aren't aware of how much privilege they've benefited from due to their white skin.

So today, after our local Martin Luther King, Jr. Mitzvah Day of Service, I was relieved to see that, among the choices of ethnic/racial identities on the survey was the choice "Jewish."  I'm so tired of having to choose between "Caucasian/White/European Origin" and "Other."

What the heck are we, anyway?  Yes, I, myself have white skin and have undoubtedly benefited from white privilege.  That said, if Jews are white, why do right-wing extremists treat us as outsiders, at best, and as "Christ-killers," at worst?  And if Jews aren't white, why do left-wing extremists treat us as white racist colonialists?

I need someone with a better brain to think about this, perhaps a philosopher and/or a theologian with a strong political bent.  I nominate Rabbi Shai Held for the job.  Please do add your own nominees in the comments, if you have anyone in mind.

I'm also more than a little concerned about whether I'm the best person to ask this question.  After all, whatever the answer, I do have white skin.  Unfortunately, I know almost no Jews of Color.  I invite comments from the entire Jewish community

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Another "misplaced comma" special :)

As the holder of a B.A. in French who spent the last 18 years of her career editing 200+-page documents, I have something of an ear for language--and my "language ear" often conflicts with my musical ear.  You're welcome to do a search on this blog for "comma" to read other posts in this "series" and get an idea of what hurts my ear a bit.

Here's a gem that I just spotted on YouTube last spring.  These are the words:

Yi'h'yu l'ratzon imrei fi v'hegyon libi l'fanecha HaShem, tzuri v'goali.

Here's a translation:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You HaShem, my rock and my redeemer.

It might help if I posted a more literal translation:

May they be acceptable, the words of my heart and the meditation of my heart, before You Hashem, my rock and my redeemer.

Here's the way the baritone soloist sings it:

Yi'h'yu l'ratzon
imrei fi v'hegyon
libi l'fanecha
HaShem, tzuri v'goali.

May they be acceptable,
the words of my heart and the meditation of
my heart, before You
Hashem, my rock and my redeemer.

Yes, "l'ratzon" and "v'hegyon" rhyme, but it still sounds a bit weird, doesn't it?

Until you listen to the music--hear here.

Sounds nice, doesn't it?

It's another case of "composer's license"--the music wins every time.  :)

Here's the granddaddy of the "comma" series, my first post on this subject.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Invitation to Shabbat shel Shir services

The Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, an egalitarian Conservative synagogue, cordially invites the Jewish community to join us for Shabbat shel Shir (Sabbath of Song) services on Shabbat Shirah, Friday, February 7, 2020 at 6:30 PM and Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 9 AM. Both services will be led by laypersons, and will be followed by Sabbath meals.

The JCJH is located at 37-06 77th Street, Jackson Heights, NY, just off 37th Avenue and across the street from P.S. 69. We look forward to seeing and singing with you there!


Sunday, January 12, 2020

Newt Gingrich, government-wrecker

The Man Who Broke Politics

I've been saying for years that Newt Gingrich destroyed the United States government by preaching a gospel of refusing to compromise, ever.  You cannot run a government without compromise.  I was actually planning to make my next post a tirade against Newt Gingrich, blaming him for the rise of Trump and, in my opinion, the coopting of the Republican Party, but a better writer wrote this article over a year ago.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Kabbalat Shabbat experiment: Beloved Brooklyn

Somehow, we managed to get to Beloved Brooklyn without too much trouble the first time we went there (for a sing-along in a sukkah), but we ran out of luck the second time.  We'd had the good fortune to bump into Anat Halevy Hochberg (whom we'd met when she sang with the Hadar Ensemble on Erev Selichot) at a class given at Hadar by Rabbi Shai Held that we were all attending, and she'd told us that she'd be co-leading Kabbalat Shabbat at Beloved.  So off we went, but this time, we got so thoroughly lost that we missed most of the service.  :(  No worries, though.  After deciding to stay for the pot-luck communal dinner and chatting with some folks at our table, we discovered the best place to have a conversation at Beloved--it's in the basement lounge, where everyone ends up sooner or later because the only "public" bathroom is in the basement.  Anat had decided to hang out in the lounge for a while and chat, so we end up talking about our plans to help our synagogue become a singing community, and Anat, whose mother is Yemenite, talked about the importance of encouraging the American Jewish community, which has a large Ashkenazi majority, to be more welcoming of non-Ashkenazi culture and leadership.  It was well worth the long commute just to have that conversation.

There are two things about which those interested in going to Beloved Brooklyn should be cautioned in advance.  One is that the house in which Beloved is located is not wheelchair accessible--one cannot enter without climbing a flight of stairs.  In addition, to make things interesting for folks with mobility and/or vision challenges, there's a two-inch step between the dining room and the kitchen, and another two-inch step between the basement lounge and the short hallway leading to the "public" bathroom.  Also, there's no handrail on the stairway leading to the basement.

The other thing about Beloved Brooklyn that one might wish to know in advance is the way the service is run, which may give traditional davveners/pray-ers pause--they sing quite a few psalms from Kabbalat Shabbat, and there's a d'var Torah (word of Torah/Bible), but Beloved doesn't pray the Maariv/Arvit/Evening Service.  The singing is delightful, but some might feel that having Kabbalat Shabbat without Maariv is rather akin to reading the introduction to a book but not reading the book.  That said, if you love to sing, this is certainly a good place.

The third time we went to Beloved Brooklyn was more carefully planned:  I'd read online some months ago that Elana Arian would be leading Kabbalat Shabbat on January 3, so we'd put that service on our calendars.  Not only did we get there in time to settle in before the service--we managed not to get nearly as badly lost this time--but two kind souls gave up their chairs and sat on the floor, which was especially nice of them since the place was packed to the rafters and they'd snagged front-row seats.

Davvening/praying with Elana made the long trip well worthwhile.  She  has a gorgeous voice and writes such beautiful music that singing with her made our Shabbat a true delight! 

I have our son to thank for "discovering" Elana--he "arm-twisted" me into opening a Facebook account, and this concert was one of the first things I saw on Facebook.

Believe it or not, that's not the end of this story.

After the communal dinner, we started saying our goodbyes, but we didn't get very far--a group of folks started singing niggunim (wordless songs) and z'mirot (Shabbat songs, traditionally sung at times other than during religious services), so we just had to join in, because we rarely have an opportunity to sing z'mirot with a group on Friday nights.  Finally, we managed to bid farewell to Isaac Luria, co-founder of Beloved and, apparently, chief cook, as well, and headed into the kitchen to say goodbye to Rabbi Sara Luria.  When we finally got a word in edgewise, we talked with her at some length about our plans to liven up our synagogue with song.

A funny thing happened, though, just as we were finally turning to leave--out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone walk in who looked familiar.  When I took a good look, I was tickled to see that it was Anat, dropping by after having prayed elsewhere.  Next thing you know, we were back in the living room with the singers, having a grand time following Anat's lead in singing two or three different Yemenite versions of Ki Eshmera Shabbat.

By the time we finally managed to force ourselves out the door, it was well after 11 PM, and we still had to hop on the subway.  Needless to say, we were half-asleep when we went to services at our local synagogue the next morning, and it was a wonder that my husband (our acting rabbi) managed to give a coherent d'var Torah (some of which was inspired by Rav Sara's d'var Torah of the night before), but I'd gladly do it all again.  As for my husband, he asked, "Why can't we do this at our shul?"  In fact, plans are currently in progress to try a lay-led, tune-full, complete Friday-night service at our own synagogue.  I'll write more about that as our plans come closer to being realized.  Wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 update:
As promised, here's your invitation to Shabbat shel Shir services.


Sunday, January 05, 2020

This is the way the world ends . . . :(

God is good to all, but we humans haven't been doing a very good job.  :(

Half a Billion Animals Potentially Killed in Australia Wildfires.

Australia Deploys Military Reservists To Combat Wildfire, As Thousands Evacuate

Keep Australia in your thoughts and prayers.

No Hate, No Fear: Scenes from today's Solidarity March

Pilgrims' Progress:  Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge to the rally.

It was a diverse crowd, with kids riding on their parent's shoulders & older folks like us stepping up.

There were both bare heads and black hats. 

And I'm happy to say that the organizers remembered to hire American Sign Language Interpreters for the rally.

I'm curious to know the size of the crowd, but it looked like several thousand.  The American Jewish Community will not be silent when Jews are attacked in synagogues such as those in Pittsburgh and Poway, while shopping in kosher stores such as this one in Jersey City, New Jersey, while celebrating Chanukah in Monsey, New York, and/or while walking the streets of Brooklyn.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

More Rising Song Intensive video links

Here's Deborah Sacks Mintz leading a beautiful niggun.

Here's Rabbi Josh Warshawsky leading a livelier niggun.  He was so high-energy when he was leading this niggun in his morning class that he was hopping up and down as if he'd had four cups of coffee with breakfast! 😀 What fun!

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Rising Song Intensive: Galeet Dardashti teaches respectful integration of Sephardi/Mizrachi music

Post #1 about the Rising Song Intensive is here.

"Integrating Sephardi/Mizrachi Vocal Repertoire Artfully and Respectfully" was the official name of the course that I took with Galeet Dardashti for three hours each day on Tuesday, December 24 and Wednesday, December 25, 2019 at Hadar's Rising Song Intensive.  We spent as much time in discussion as we did learning Mizrachi music, because we had no choice--we couldn't ignore the "elephant in the room," which was cultural appropriation.  How could a room of mostly-Ashkenazi students be teachers and/or singers of Sephardi/Mizrachi music when that music wasn't "ours" by birth?  The standing-on-one-foot version of Galeet's advice was (1) to learn the music very well and (2) to be sure to give credit to the songwriter/paitan (writer of religious poetry).  She assured us that we shouldn't worry about the likelihood that we wouldn't be able to match the Hebrew pronunciation of the original version, or the distinct possibility that we wouldn't be able to sing quarter-tone notes.

I learned from Galeet that most Mizrachi music is sung without harmony, but with more call-and-response singing than is typical of Ashkenazi music.  (Galeet assured us that she, herself, uses harmony frequently.)  I also learned that many piyyutim (religious poems, usually written to be sung) were composed for the precise purpose of being sung to popular melodies, most of which are no longer known, since most piyyutim are literally centuries old.  In addition, I learned that there are no niggunim (wordless songs) in Sephardi/Mizrachi music.

Galeet seemed to me to have a different singing style than (most of?) the other singers at the Rising Song Intensive.  After hearing her sing both in class and after the communal lighting of the Chanukah candles, I joked with her that, when she sang, she just belted it out like a Mizrachi Ethel Merman.  She cracked up laughing. 

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Friday, December 27, 2019

Rising Song Intensive: Harmony heaven

If memory serves me correctly, there were 630 people (my husband says 250) registered for the Rising Song Intensive, and of those, I'm guessing that at least 100 of us were singing harmony.  I don't think I've ever in my life been anywhere with that many harmony singers in one place at one time.  Even in the chapel, when maybe 30 people were davvening (praying), when we got to the end of Aleinu, we broke into four-part harmony.  I told my husband that this was one of the best vacations I've ever had.

I just spent an hour in a chat with Google trying to figure out how to get the few videos that I shot--I was too busy singing!--from my new-ish phone onto my computer--I'll try to post them when I'm awake.  I'll also try to write some more about Hadar's Rising Song Intensive, which was an amazing experience!

In the meantime, I hope this link to last night's concert with Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble, four of whose regular members and one guest led, or taught at, the Intensive, will work.

Friday, Dec. 27, 2019 update:
I can see, when I go to the "write/edit" screen, that my video has been uploaded, but it simply refuses to appear in the published/visible post.  It occurs to me that I've had this problem in the past--back in the good old days when I still remembered my YouTube password, I used to upload my videos to YouTube and link to them in my posts.  For lack of a current alternative, I'm linking to the Facebook post where I uploaded this video last night--if you click here, you can listen to Basya Schechter leading her Maoz Tzur.  Enjoy!

See my next post, which is also about the Rising Song Intensive.

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Kabbalat Shabbat experiment: Mindfulness Service at BJ

B'nai Jeshurun's Mindfulness Kabbalat Shabbat Service  was . . . interesting.

There was plenty of mindfulness.

But there wasn't much service.

A line from this psalm and that psalm, a few verses of L'cha Dodi, Bar'chu, the first line of Sh'ma, Mi Chamocha . . . you get the picture.

But the piece de resistance was the Amidah.

As in, what Amidah?

They started with HaShem S'fatai Tiftach, left us standing in silence for several minutes with no text in our hands--apparently not assuming that some of us might actually want to pray using the actual traditional words--and finished with Oseh Shalom.  I told my husband that this was analogous to warming up for a race and cooling down from a race without actually running the race.  What's the point of having bookends if one doesn't intend to put books between them?

Clearly, this service is not for people who prefer to pray the traditional prayers, and I doubt that my husband or I will return for this particular type of service.

That said, I applaud BJ for offering a Mindfulness Service.  A Jew who finds mindfulness, contemplation, meditation, or the like meaningful or crucial to their spiritual life should not have to go to a silent retreat at a monastery, or to an ashram, to find it.

Also, kudos to BJ's Center for Prayer and Spirituality for co-hosting Hadar's Rising Song Intensive.  We'll be there, as well as at an occasional Bo-i Kallah service.


Three problems with using musical instruments during Shabbat services

These are solely my own opinions regarding the challenges presented by the presence of musical instruments in synagogue during Shabbat (Sabbath) and Shalosh Regalim (Festival) services:

~ Competing harmonies.  As I've posted previously, blending my harmonies with those of other harmony singers is one thing, but trying to avoid clashing with the chords of a guitar or other instrument, which is an inanimate object, can be a challenge that I don't always appreciate.  I've been davvening a cappella (praying without instrumental accompaniment) almost my entire life, so I'm used to choosing my own harmonies.  I'm not used to this, and I'm not sure whether or not I like it.

~ Competing musicians, so to speak.  My husband and I have found that the instruments frequently drown out the singers, making it difficult to hear the words of the prayers being sung.

~ "Basso continuo," so to speak.  The current trend of using musical instruments, such as the harmonium or the cello, to accompany announcements of who's sick or to signal the coming end of the Silent Amidah, for example, is one that I don't appreciate.  I also wonder whether this custom was borrowed from the church.  We Jews have been davvening (praying) silently for some 2,000 years.  What's wrong with good old-fashioned silence?

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Maccabeats - Pan Fry (Bad Guy and Old Town Road parody) - Hanukkah 2019

Six13 - A Star Wars Chanukah

I strongly recommend that you watch this fun video in full-screen view.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Finally, I'll be free to set my own schedule

Interpreting Jewish Prayer: A Collaborative Workshop (Rav Elie Kaunfer)
Thursdays 3:30-5:00 pm January 23 - March 26
. . .

I've been interested in taking one of Rabbi Kaunfer's classes on Jewish prayer for years, but they're always scheduled for the afternoon, presumably because they're intended primarily for the Fellows of Yeshivat Hadar, who are day students.  So this was my reaction when I received notice of this class in my inbox:  Now I know why I'm retiring!

I've already registered.


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Deborah Sacks Mintz leads her "Nigun Gevurah/Barchi Nafshi" at USCJ Convention

Video here.

I spent several minutes trying to figure how I could be singing along when I couldn't figure where in the siddur (prayer book) the words were from.  Naturally, my husband listened for about 10 seconds and pegged the words as coming from right before Shochen Ad.  That makes sense, since he almost always leads P'sukei D'Zimra, and these words are, except on a Yom Tov/holiday, the last ones that he leads.


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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Links to new music videos from Rabbi Josh Warshawsky & Rabbi Yosef Goldman

Here's Josh's "HaPoteach" (from the Shabbat/Sabbath Morning Service).

And here's Yosef's "Open My Heart," from his just-released album of the same name.

Music link-fest:

"Ein Od, " "Eliyahu HaNavi," and "Gam Ki Elech" (two versions)

~ "Ya'aleh Koleinu"

~ "Shir HaMa'alot"

~ And my previous music link-fest



Feedback--and pushback--on trying to help our synagogue become a singing community

Start here.

It's our own fault. We forgot that, when the cantor leads from the center of the sanctuary on the High Holidays, the sanctuary is set up in a completely different configuration, with long rows of chairs facing a wide center area, rather than short rows facing the Aron Kodesh and separated by an aisle that's only about a yard (just under a meter) wide.  Unfortunately, due to the necessity of renting our sanctuary when we're not praying, we can't leave the sanctuary in the High Holiday configuration.  One congregant who sits on the center aisle complained that, when cantor sings from there, s/he is singing almost directly into that congregant's ear!  Perhaps we shouldn't have been so surprised when the majority of congregants supported the cantor's request to return to the bimah (prayer platform).  Perhaps I should also not have been surprised that, even when the cantor was singing from the center aisle, s/he still didn't notice that s/he was sometimes singing too quickly for some of our congregants, who were singing quite audibly slower than the cantor.  Why the cantor didn't notice, I don't understand--I've noticed that problem for years.  :(

As for the new music that we've introduced, some congregants have complained that they miss the tunes that they're used to, others have complained that the new songs don't sound Jewish, and yet others love the new songs and are delighted that we're trying to liven up the service.  My husband has concluded that, if we want to start a monthly Musical Kabbalat Service, we should probably try to hold it earlier in the evening (6:30 PM?) and maintain our the usual 8 PM service as a separate service, less we tick off the traditionalists.

We hope that attending the Rising Song Intensive will help us get a sense of how best to proceed in encouraging congregational participation and interest in singing more contemporary Jewish music.  But I, for one, am not sure which Intensive track would work best for me.  In theory, the Tefillah Leadership Track seems the best track to address our goals.  In practice, however, we rarely lead tefillah (prayer) other than P'sukei D'Zimra, which my husband leads almost every Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (holiday) for the grand total of roughly four-six people who are usually present at (or near) the beginning of the service.  Neither of us 70-somethings feels that we could sing much more than part of a service.  And our cantor is also a 70-something--their voice isn't holding up so well either.  I think that what we really need to do is to figure out how to encourage some of the 30-somethings who are now attending services to pick up the torch.  (Three of them sing well, and two can chant a haftarah.)  Any suggestions would certainly be appreciated.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Video links: Ein Od and Eliyahu HaNavi

As an Ashkenazit, I've never heard this line from the Aleinu prayer, quoting Deuteronomy 4:35-38 (and Zechariah 14:9) sung quite the way that Rabbi Yosef Goldman wrote it.  (If the audio doesn't play right away, click on the video screen again.)

Here's a very nice version of Eliyah HaNavi, by Rabbi Yosef Goldman and Annie Lewis.  (The video doesn't seem to start at the beginning of the song--just hit "replay.")

And, in case you missed these, here are two different versions of "Gam Ki Elech."


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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Our goal: To help our synagogue become a singing community (part 2)

Part 1 is here.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch-house (or the apartment), my husband was also becoming restive.  After a spring, summer, and early fall of attending musical Kabbalat Shabbat services, Jewish-music concerts, a musical Selichot service, and a kumzits/sing-along or two, he surprised me on Erev (the Eve of) Shemini Atzeret when even he began complaining about our cantor (and he's not generally the complaining type).  The next thing you know, I was taking Joey Weisenberg's Building Singing Communities off the bookshelf and starting to re-read it--and the minute I put it down, my husband grabbed it.

First, my husband, who's the Ritual Director and, for lack of funds, the Acting Rabbi of our synagogue, took advantage of the fact that we were having trouble with the lighting on the bimah to insist that the cantor come on down and davven among the Jews in the (no) pews.  Then, with my encouragement, he moved the shtender (lectern) further back in the center aisle. ("It has to be at least next to the second row, so that whoever's leading can sing straight into ___'s hearing aids.").  That's about the right location--our sanctuary is small-ish, with only about 8 rows of chairs along the center aisle and a heavy concentration of congregants in rows two, three, and four.  [That idea didn't work out so well.]

Then he decided that we should add to our new Adon Olam repertoire (which we "borrowed" from a couple of L'cha Dodi tunes and have been leading as a team)--now, we're also leading Oseh Shalom at the end of Kaddish Shalem after the Musaf Amidah prayer. (We lead this song complete with clapping, which is quite a change for a congregation that used to be heavily German-Jewish and concerned with decorum).  Reactions have been interesting.  I got a specific request for Alon Olam melodies that are lively (hence the choice of tunes, thus far) and some complaints that the songs don't sound Jewish, and my husband got a request to sing the Lewandowski "Tzadik KaTamar" (melody only) when he leads the Shir Shel Yom (Psalm of the Day) on Shabbat (Sabbath).

Next, my husband got seriously ambitious, and began talking with other congregants about starting a monthly Musical Kabbalat Shabbat service.  Much enthusiasm ensued.

But it's quite a responsibility for a group of non-musicians to try to choose a song for each of the Kabbalat Shabbat psalms and get everyone singing.  I'm not sure that any of us knows where to begin.

Which is why my husband and I will be attending the Rising Song Intensive this year for the first time.

It's a bit unnerving for a pair of alte geezers with almost no formal training in music and plenty of vocal problems (due to age, allergies, and/or acid reflux) to be singing in such talented company, but we certainly hope to learn some good ideas about how to help build a singing community.  Wish us luck.

The reason why I'm still writing at this ridiculous hour is that the deadline for registration is this Sunday, December 1, 2019.  We hope that some of you will join us at the Intensive.

Our goal: To help our synagogue become a singing community

It all started with a link.

Early last April, a friend of ours from synagogue sent me a URL to some new Jewish music.  If you haven't yet discovered Rabbi Josh Warshawsky, I strongly recommend that you check out his album Chaverai Nevarech, especially if you're a fan of multi-part harmony.

Less than a month later, our son finally persuaded me to create a Facebook account, on the theory that, perhaps, more people would read my posts if I linked to them on FB.  That hasn't worked out quite as well as hoped.  But on the other hand, one of the first things I saw on Facebook was a link to this wonderful concert.

Next thing you know, I was checking out contemporary Jewish musicians on YouTube.

It was delightful.

But also depressing.

I stopped going to Friday night services at our synagogue years ago because our cantor treats the service as a race to the finish:  It includes maybe six songs--only two in Kabbalat Shabbat--and is over in about 20-25 minutes.  But, after hearing all that wonderful Jewish music on YouTube and Facebook, I finally decided, first, to stop objecting to instrumental music on Shabbat and, second, to start schlepping to shul on Shabbat by subway again in order to go to tune-full Kabbalat Shabbat services elsewhere.

My husband and I were having a wonderful time shul-hopping, but I began to wonder why we had to go elsewhere to hear all this marvelous music.  So I asked our cantor to teach the congregation some new songs.

And the cantor offered to teach some Carlebach tunes.

Leaving aside, for the moment, the controversy about Carlebach's abusive behavior with women, there was another problem with the cantor's offer--Carlebach has been deceased for over 20 years.  Was this truly the newest Jewish music that the cantor knew?!

So I informed the cantor that I would like to take over leading Adon Olam.

There's more to this story, but I don't want to bore you with one lonnnnnnnnnnnng post, so stay tuned for part 2.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

I tied one on. :)

Here's the latest trend in kisui rosh (head-coverings), apparently:

"#headbandnation at JTS,"

I copied these comments from Facebook:

Deborah Sacks Mintz Avi Killip someone needs to do a study on the trend of trad egal women wearing headbands
. . .
Liora Halperin What’s the story? Why are you all wearing headbands? 
. . .
Deborah Sacks Mintz Liora Halperin a wide spectrum of reasons...marriage, in lieu of a kippa, some combo of the two, another reason entirely. . .

My hair's too short for a headband, and I've afraid that the elastic would give me a headache, but last night at Rabbi Tucker's lecture at Hadar I did see one of the female Yeshivat Hadar fellows wearing a scarf tied in a similar fashion, so I thought I'd give it a try.

However, I'd have to continue to use a kippah for the weekday Shacharit (Morning Service), because a scarf wouldn't survive having head tefillin strapped under it--it would just fall off.  Been there, tried that.

This scarf won't do--it comes untied and slides off too easily.  I'm trying some longer scarves, which work much better, but having the ends hang down my back to below the waistline does make me feel like a 70-year-old hippy.  :)  Oh, well, better late than never.  :) 

November 22, 2019 update

A scarf worn head-band style and:

~ Tefillin.  On Monday night, one of the Yeshivat Hadar students kindly showed me a better way to tie my scarf--first, put the scarf around the back of the head, then pull the ends around to the front (above the ears), then wrap one end around to the back, then wrap the other end over the first one, then tie both ends in back.  This makes the scarf look less flat, and also leaves a lot less of the scarf hanging down in back, which means it doesn't get in the way quite as much.  Even so, after four days of trying to put a scarf on after I'd finished putting on the head tefillin/shel rosh, I've given up trying to wear a scarf with tefillin--frankly, the effort is distracting me from the mitzvah of laying tefillin.  But I can wear a scarf when I'm davvenning (praying) any service for which tefillin are not worn, or for studying divrei kodesh (sacred texts).

~ Context.  If I'm the only woman in the room wearing a head-covering, wearing a scarf rather than a kippah just makes me look "holier than thou," in my opinion, so I'll stick to a kippah.

~ Denominational "marking."  Deborah may be convinced that the trend of traditional egalitarian women wearing headbands is restricted to trad egal women, but here's another comment from that same Facebook post:

Emily Goldberg Winer Hi tell me where all of these headbands are from please!! #headbandnation Maharat needs to know!
Emily is a student at Yeshivat Maharat.

So much for this style being for egalitarian women only.

The bottom line is this--If I want to cover my head with a garment that clearly identifies me as a non-Orthodox Jewish woman, I really have no other option than to wear a kippah.  Just about any other head-covering is worn by Orthodox women (of one segment of the Orthodox community or another) and leaves my denominational identity unclear.

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Saturday, November 09, 2019

"Gam Ki Elech," by Rabbi Josh Warshawsky & Coleen Dieker (video)

Here's a gorgeous song that we heard at last Saturday night's concert--it's the "full" version, with more singers and instumentalists. Enjoy!

No, it's not your imagination--I did post a video of "Gam Ki Elech" before, but that's the Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble version.

So now you get two videos with the same name (and lyrics) for the price of one.  :)


Sunday, November 03, 2019

Oh my gosh, what a sing-along with Josh (Warshawsky)!

See here.

Last night's concert was billed as "Rabbi Josh Warshawsky and Friends." The friends turned out to be Brian Gelfand (whom we'd met a few years ago when he led an instant-choir session at a Limmud weekend) on keyboards and voice, Coleen Dieker (Rav Josh's long-time music collaborator--they co-wrote Hame'irah) on violin and voice, and singer/songwriter Deborah Sacks Mintz (whom we'd last seen here, here, and here), along with Cantor Elizabeth Stevens, who joined the group for several songs.

The audience was about three-quarters campers (and their parents) from Ramah in the Berkshires.  And the kids, whom Rav Josh called up to join him for two songs, were having a grand time singing along and kibitzing--every time the name Malka came up in a song, there were shouts of glee from the left side of the room, since, apparently, there was a girl named Malka among the campers sitting there. :)

As for this particular grown-up, there were so many audience members not only singing along, but also, like me, singing harmony that I felt as if I were back in the alto row of the choir at my former synagogue.

My husband and I are so glad that we made the long trek to Riverdale to sing along with Rav Josh and Friends.

What fun!


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Kumzits followed by kibitzing: End-of-holidays round-up

First, we went to an Erev Hoshana Rabbah kumzitz/sing-along in the Sukkah at Beloved Brooklyn, with singer/songwriter Deborah Sacks Mintz and percussionist Sam Weisenberg, and had a delightful evening (not to mention an opportunity to make a b'rachah in the sukkah)!

Then, there were shenanigans in shul on Simchat Torah.

In the evening, we were happy, indeed, to see some of our younger members and friends--folks in roughly their thirties--show up to make a minyan for hakafot despite the fact that they had all worked that day.  Since they were enthusiastic singers, I had fun leading them in some new tunes that I've just recently learned from YouTube, namely, Nava Tehila's "Oseh Shalom" and Elana Arian's "Hinei Ma Tov."  I can't remember the last time I had so much fun on Erev Simchat Torah!

In the morning, my husband, with much "assistance" from me, alternated between goofing off and singing just about every song we knew for the psalms and other texts in P'sukei D'Zimrah, including all of Salamone Rossi's "Halleli Nafshi," but only the alto part, 'cause that's the only part I know.  :)

Then my husband started singing the High Holiday tune for the Avot section (first paragraph) of the Amidah, and drove the cantor crazy.  :)

During the Musaf service, I did my usual shtick of spraying water in people's faces when we said "Mashiv ha-ruach u'morid ha-gashem (God makes the wind blow and the rain fall)."

But probably the best part of the morning was putting a smile on the face of one of our congregation's favorite 90-something-year-olds.

A simchah was had by all!


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Getting--and missing--the point: Women's shiurim for women on Simchat Torah

A recent minhag (custom) among some Orthodox Jewish women (encouraged by the OU) is to have women give shiurim (lessons on Jewish religious texts) to other women while the men are doing hakafot, getting aliyot, etc., on Simchat Torah.

This solves the problem that, for women in many, if not most, Orthodox synagogues, the festivities of Simchat Torah are reserved for the men, leaving the women as spectators.  I've been told that some Orthodox women who, due to circumstances, have no man (father, brother, husband, son, etc.) to watch during the Simchat Torah services simply stay home from synagogue.

Whoever came up with the idea of women giving shiurim to other women gets the point--they realize that some woman want something that they can do on Simchat Torah, independent of the men.

That said, I'm not quite sure that this minhag suits the occasion.

Having the women give and listen to shiurim while the men are doing hakafot, having aliyot, and enjoying, perhaps, a nip of scotch is rather like having a teacher reward female students for doing well in their lessons by offering them more lessons, while rewarding male students for doing well in their lessons by letting them go out to the school yard and enjoy themselves.

In other words, the men are enjoying Simchat Torah while the women are, essentially, having something resembling a Tikkun Yom Shavuot.

Where's the simchah for women?

Update, 10:03 AM
We got home so late from a delightful Sukkot sing-along/kumzits with Deborah Sacks Mintz and Sam Weisenberg (and an opportunity to make a b'rachah/blessing in a sukkah) at Beloved Brooklyn that I was too tired to search my e-mail for the link to the Lehrhaus article/d'var Torah "The Inverted Halakhah of Simchat Torah," by Chaim Saiman, which I should have included in this post.  (Thanks to Beloved Brooklyn's co-founder Rabbi Sara Luria for encouraging me to write down and publish this post post-haste, after I told her that I'd been "writing it in my head" all Shabbat.)  This is what I'm talking about:

". . . for all the minhagim developed over the centuries, Torah study was never one of them. Whereas Shavuot commemorates Torah as an idea that is celebrated by scholars engaging in its study, on Simhat Torah the Torah is democratized and treated as a thing—a heftza (in the pre-Brisker sense) that is held, touched, paraded around, danced with, hugged, and kissed, but not learned. The teachings of the Hasidic masters as well as the Vilna Gaon and R. Soloveitchik add that we dance in a circle to emphasize how every participant is equidistant from the spiritual center,[33] and another ma’amar explains that Torah scrolls remain closed to demonstrate that scholars and am ha-aratzim share equally in the Torah. To the extent formalized learning takes place, it is primarily through the very recent minhag of instituting shiurim by and for women designed to recognize women and offer appropriate programing during the holiday’s largely male-centric activities. The net result is that while men are functionally patur [exempt from their obligations?], women are encouraged to learn Torah: an inversion indeed!

In addition to offering a release, Simhat Torah reaffirms the community’s dominant values. The celebrations, whatever their excesses, literally and figuratively revolve around Torah."

Essentially, unless the women also get to dance with a Torah scroll before or after a shiur, the women get the Torah, but not what Chaim Saiman calls the "release."

I, personally, don't feel that a study session is the same thing as a celebration.  That said, if a shiur is the only activity that your synagogue offers you on Simchat Torah, I certainly hope that you'll take advantage of the opportunity.

Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday)!
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