Cantor Juval Porat of the LA LGBT synagogue Beth Chaim Chadashim has recently attended the annual song leading and music workshop of the Union for Reform Judaism – and was really enjoying himself.
The Happiest Place on Earth.
I hope the beloved and popular chain of Walt Disney amusement parks will forgive me for borrowing their official tagline to use as a description for my recent visit to Hava Nashira – the annual song leading and music workshop of the Union for Reform Judaism at Camp Olin-Sang- Ruby in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
That line kept reliably popping up ever so often, almost like a summer hit song among the Hava Nashira attendees and Facebook photo taggers. I made my way to Hava Nashira looking forward to being re-energized while singing together with this incredible community, and I left hoping that everyone who enjoys singing and music will have the opportunity to come and visit Hava Nashira at some point. Hey, maybe some of you BCC choir singers, or lovely BCC lay leaders, would like to go next year? Let me know!
At Hava Nashira I attended singer/songwriter Craig Taubman’s elective in which he invited us to join him for a journey down musical memory lane. At BCC we’ve been using Craig’s Hamakom Y’nachem pretty much every Friday night. While introducing his song Shiga’on, Craig asked me up and gave me a line to repeat to the crowd as part of the song. Before I knew it I found myself doing dance moves, which were emulated by the audience. It was fun and liberating, but what really got me thinking was the number of people who came up to me later to tell me they had no idea who that person dancing on stage was. Their impression of me was of this quiet and reserved and very “German” person, so my bursting into dance on stage came as a complete surprise. It probably says something about the benefit of re-evaluating one’s impression of somebody else, and it probably also says something about the power of music.
It has this ability to strip away the protective layers we tend to put around ourselves. Whatever lies underneath those layers, great pain or joy – when we connect with it, that’s when healing moments are created. Based on the number of wet eyes, offered hugs, and even silent moments preceded by ecstatic song sessions – during 4.5 days in May, Camp Olin-Sang Ruby was definitely an intense and busy generator of insights and happy moments.
Later on, at Cantor Ellen Dreskin’s brainstorm intensive on Jewish rituals, we tried to tease out the essence of Jewish rituals in our lives and spark new ideas about them. “We need to be concerned with doing things ‘well’, rather than ‘right,’” said Cantor Dreskin. “If it doesn’t make a difference, what difference does it make?” This beautiful sentiment has accompanied me since my return to BCC and guided me in my music choices and ritual planning.
Our Shavuot service (special thanks to Joan Spitler for her special instruments and creative contributions), Pride Shabbat, and intergenerational service are some of the more recent BCC worship experiences in which “doing it well” has guided my approach.
Just as at Camp Olin-Sang-Ruby, it’s my vision for BCC to generate meaningful, sacred moments through music as a means of expression, Jewish ritual and liturgy, together with Rabbi Lisa and Rabbi Heather and with all of you. We’re all in it together, having been provided with this amazing opportunity to be seen and loved, understood and connected, with all the gifts we have to bring. I invite you to come and share them.