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 Shlomo Carlebach's abusive behavior with women, there was another problem with the cantor's offer--Shlomo 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!


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