Archive | February, 2014

Jazz, Jews, and Shabbat Shmooze

25 Feb

After a class I taught recently, a couple approached me to ask about the music that we use here in services at Temple Beth El. Half of the couple you see, had grown up in the Orthodox tradition and for him, the music here was very unfamiliar. They asked, “what is the tradition of this music that is used here? Does it have any history?”

I get asked lots of questions, especially after teaching a class as large as this one happened to be, yet I was completely taken aback.

As I fumbled for the right words to convey how rich the history is of each and every note of our service, I realized what it was exactly that had surprised me so about the inquiry. I was surprised because the music he was describing is so much a part of who I am, and who I know Cantor Bernard to be.

Cantors in the Reform movement are trained to pray and lead even the most traditional service (though I, as a woman would not be afforded such an opportunity). And our TBE worship has hints of this body of music sprinkled throughout. Cantor Bernard is as expert as they come in nusach – the modes of traditional Jewish worship –  and I greatly enjoy singing classical cantorial music – chazzanut. Yet, our passion for this tradition is not always apparent in services, it seems.

Which leads me to extend to you, dear congregant, an invitation. I would like to share some really excellent Jewish music with you. Would you join me at this month’s Late at Eight Shabbat Worship Experience? On March 7th, Bill Ward and I, along with Rabbi Schindler, will share a program of jazz and jazz-like Jewish music for Shabbat. We will be informal, drink wine (BYO!), enjoy dessert and coffee, and explore some of this world of Jewish sacred music that is just ever so slightly beyond our regular repertoire. This is what Late at Eight is for: exploring music, ideas, and community in new ways together. I hope to see you there and in the meantime, here is a taste of what’s to come. Personally, I can’t wait!

– Cantor Mary

This week’s Torah reading – Va-Yakheil

17 Feb

Exodus Chapter 37 begins:

“Then Betzalel made the coffer, of acacia wood, two cubits and a half its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height.”

This is the famous Ark of the Covenant, and it, like all the other parts of the Mishkan, our portable Tabernacle, or Temple in a Tent, described in this week’s Torah reading, Va-Yakheil, received incredibly thorough attention to detail.

In the Torah, we are given detailed instructions on buildings, even as we receive far vaguer directions in other areas. We are told about circumcision and its importance, and the details are left to us to work out.

Perhaps we see these differences because our ancestors understood that some things can be controlled, and others cannot. We can describe exactly how to build something, or how to make an offering, and yet the ritual for bringing a child into the world must always be relevant to the baby’s parents and their community. Relevance tends to change over time.

What a piece of wisdom!

When it comes to something that requires details that make a difference – we lay out all the details with exacting precision.

When it comes to the best ways to create family and community, we understand that people are infinitely varied, and our applications of important principles will change over times and circumstances.

Have a great week!

ark plus


Source of image:

A Prayer for Education in North Carolina

7 Feb

by Rabbi Judith Schindler

Marian  Wright Edelman, the Founder and the President of the Children’s Defense Fund opens her book called The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small with a prayer:

“God, we have pushed so many of our children into the tumultuous sea of

Life in small and leaky boats without survival gear and compass.

Forgive us and help them to forgive us.

Help us now to give all our children the anchors of faith and love,

The rudders of purpose and hope,

The sails of health and education, and the paddles of family and community,

To keep them safe and strong when life’s sea gets rough.”

In Judaism, education is a highest priority. If you don’t have funds to build a school and a synagogue, a school must come first. Education is the responsibility of the parent, and if the parent is unable, for any reason, that responsibility falls upon the community. And teachers are given the greatest honor. Parents bring us into the world. Teachers through what they teach us, bring us into the world to come. Our teachers help us create a better and brighter future for our children.

God forgive us.  We have failed so many of our community’s kids.

We have pushed so many of our students into a turbulent sea with insufficient education to keep them afloat. Help us now to work in partnership with those of every faith and those of no faith, with those of every political persuasion and every background.

Let us not battle but together build for the children of Charlotte and North Carolina  a solid education every step of the way from early childhood to our community and state colleges so that they can have stable vessels of knowledge and wisdom to carry them through life.

May we anchor our students with the basic necessities of food and shelter that enable them to pursue a passion for learning.

May capable teachers be the rudders that set them on their course and may we support, adequately compensate and show honor to our North Carolina teachers for their noble service by recognizing them as the professionals that they are.

Failing to support our teachers and their classrooms by providing assistants in the elementary years and offering early childhood educational opportunities to the economically disadvantaged robs our children of opportunities to grow.

May we provide our students with paddles of skill so that they can reach their destination of their choice and live meaningful, productive, and holy lives.

May our children be safe in our schools. May our children be successful in our schools. May all of us help to make it so. Amen.