Sunday, February 02, 2020

Hadar National Shabbaton 2020

The first thing I noticed when we arrived at the Stamford Hilton was a baby.  Then another.  Then another, and probably more children than we've seen in one Jewish place at one time in years.  There were families there!  Our synagogue now has exactly one toddler--this is the first one in decades.  The kids who were too young for the Shabbaton's children's program (jointly run by the Hadar Institute, Ramah Day Camp at Nyack, and Camp Ramah in the Berkshires) came to services with their parents.  Imagine that--children in shul!  For us, that's practically unheard of, these days.  And two of the older girls gave a fine rendition of the Anim Z'mirot piyut (religious poem/hymn) at the end of the Musaf service on  Shabbat (Sabbath) morning.

Joey Weisenberg's crew of Rising Song Institute Residents led services on Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve), with Joey mostly just hanging back and letting the residents lead.  It was delightful to davven (pray) with such a fine tefillah team.

A pleasant surprise awaited me on Shabbat morning.  I was too late when I asked to chant the haftarah in honor of my 71st birthday, but Rabbi Kaunfer was kind enough to offer me the fourth aliyah, instead.  Imagine how startled I was when the gabbaim broke into a hearty "Yom Huledet Sameach (Happy Birthday to You)" after my closing b'rachah.  I got to celebrate my birthday with about 600 people!  And we even got to enjoy sitting with my old blogger buddy Larry Lennhoff at lunch!

After way too much food--a secondary theme of the Shabbaton :)--we went to a thought-provoking session about the great debate on brit milah for the newborn sons of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers.  Since my husband is the "acting rabbi" of our synagogue (for lack of funds to pay for a "real" rabbi), we've had plenty of discussions about the issue of trying to bring many of the younger Jews in our community into our shul while staying true to our Conservative-Jewish status, which is certainly a challenge with so many patrilineal Jews and Jews in serious relationships with non-Jews among them.  How to be welcoming but hold to halachic standards is a major challenge that our congregation has not yet figured out how to meet.

An unfortunate but predictable result of having stayed up late on Friday night to attend a panel discussion on American Jewish prayer communities, sing z'mirot (Sabbath songs, generally sung at places other than synagogue services), and have some good laughs at Yisrael Campbell's comedy show was that I was sleepy.  In the interest of not upsetting any further session leaders by nodding off under their noses, I decided to switch to something less intellectual, and headed for a Nigun Swap.  We all had a grand time singing, and it was nice to see how well that activity worked for the parents of little ones--there were several babies being bounced on laps and shoulders, and toddlers wandered around the room under watchful eyes.  And there was yet more singing after Mincha (Afternoon Serice) and Seudah Shlishit (the traditional Third Sabbath Meal).

Arvit (Maariv, Evening Service) was followed by a lovely Havdalah service led by the Rising Song Residents, with much singing and dancing thereafter.  What a way to end Shabbat and enter the week on a high!

Our first discussion of the new week was about Hadar's new strategic plan, where my husband suggested that Hadar should do more publicity about faculty members available to give lectures or lead study sessions.  Our synagogue could certainly use a hand in dealing with the patrilineal and "mixed-marriage" issues.

After a Melaveh Malka snack of soup for me and pizza for The Punster, I tortured the ears of anyone within hailing range at the Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Trio concert.  (Let's just say that I sing more loudly than well, though at least I'm mostly on key.)  It's great fun going to a concert at which the entire audience is encouraged to sing along.  I spoke to all of the musicians--Joey, Deborah Sacks Mintz, Sam Weisenberg, and Yoshie Fruchter--and thanked them for the wonderful "birthday present."  :)  When Sam told me that Yoshie and I shared a birthday, I traded birthday greetings with him.  What fun!

On Sunday, we studied Leadership and Prayer with Rabbi Kaunfer, who always prints out a ton of source material, the rest of which I hope to read tomorrow.  Indeed, how did we end up with anyone who's obligated to perform a mitzvah being able to fulfill someone else's mitzvah obligation (kind of)?  You don't have to be either a Kohen or a scholar to lead a service.

Breaking up was hard to do, but we finally went home, singing and happy.  I even brought home a free Shabbaton tee shirt that was a birthday present from Hadar--thanks!  Hope to see you at the next Hadar Shabbaton (or at Rabbi Kaunfer's Interpreting Tefillah class this Thursday).

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