11 August 2016 // 7 Av 5776
Mark your calendars! The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) is pleased to invite you to CONNECTIONS 2017 on May 17-20 in Jerusalem, Israel. CONNECTIONS offers deep learning, meaningful leadership development, and engaging events that will inspire Progressive Jews from all facets of communal life - leaders, educators, volunteers, activists, professionals, students, rabbis and more - with workshops, seminars, worship services, tours and much more. Pre-convention programs begin as early as May 11, 2017.
Set against the dynamic backdrop of Jerusalem, CONNECTIONS 2017 Milestones & Innovation comprises an array of seminars, tours, services and workshops that will honor the historical milestones from our Zionist and Progressive history over the past 200 years, while exploring the innovative ways Klal Yisrael and Progressive Judaism have evolved ever since.
Click here for more information and to pre-register.
By Aron Hirt-Manheimer
Synagogue music experienced a radical transformation in the late 1960s, as sing-along tunes that originated in youth group and camp settings replaced the earlier performance-oriented style. The duo, Kol B’Seder, made up of Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, then a voice major at the Hartt School of Music, and Cantor Jeff Klepper, then a Kutz Camp-trained song leader, helped usher in the new era of Jewish liturgical folk music. Their 1973 setting of “Shalom Rav,” like Debbie Friedman’s “Mi Shebeirach,” have since become so ubiquitous worldwide as to be considered traditional.
I asked Rabbi Freelander, who is now executive director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), how a small cadre of camp-based singer-songwriters launched a revolution that got Reform Jews singing in the pews.
ReformJudaism.org: If I were to worship in a typical large or medium-sized Reform temple in the 1950s and ‘60s, what would I find musically?
Rabbi Freelander: You’d be listening quietly to inspirational liturgical music played on the organ and performed by the cantor and a professional four-part choir. The rendition of the Shema Yisrael prayer would most likely have been composed by Salomon Sulzer in Vienna 100 years earlier, reflecting the musical fashion of the time.
When did the shift to congregational singing accompanied by guitar begin, and what was the catalyst?
The transition began in the mid-sixties and was influenced by a number of dramatic events, including the anti-Vietnam war movement, the rise of black power and ethnic self-affirmation, and Israel’s stunning victory in the Six-Day War. It was during this period that Israeli songs entered the Reform Jewish repertoire. For example, Nurit Hirsh’s “Oseh Shalom,” written immediately after the Six Day War, resonated with Reform Jews, becoming a liturgical mainstay in only a matter of months. Not only were many Israeli songs instant hits, the Reform Movement switched pronunciation from the Ashkenazic to the Sephardic-Israeli pronunciation of Hebrew, as, for example, from “yiSgadal veyiSkadash” to “yiTgadal veyiTkadash”.
What were some of the other musical influences that led to the emergence of homegrown Reform Jewish songwriters in the 1960s-70s?
In the late 1960s, Israel started the Chassidic & Folk Festival, which produced a lot of creative sing-along Jewish music. At the same time, Shlomo Carlebach wrote dozens of soulful, catchy melodies that had the same rhythms as popular protest songs and worked well for congregational group singing.
UAHC (Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now the Union for Reform Judaism) camps played a big role by serving as incubators for Jewish composers like Michael Isaacson, who worked at Kutz Camp in the late 1960s. Debbie Friedman, z’l, started writing music in 1970 at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) in Wisconsin. When Jeff Klepper and I began writing music in 1971, Union camps gave us a venue and opportunity to stay up late and experiment with new melodies. The next day we’d try them out in the dining hall or at a worship service. If the group liked the song, we refined it; if they didn’t, we threw it away and started again.
How did camp music find its way to the synagogue?
The Reform youth organization, NFTY, played a major role. Specifically, in 1971, Loui Dobin, then a high school senior (now director of URJ Greene Family Camp), compiled 20 of the best songs in an album called NFTY Sings. Eight more albums would follow, each containing the songs’ words and chords. So in every camp you would see kids, some of them future song leaders and cantors, learning songs from these sheets.
When the NFTY albums stopped appearing in the late 1980s, Debbie Friedman, Jeff Klepper, and Jerry Kaye, camp director of OSRUI, started Hava Nashira, an annual song leading workshop, which for 25 years has been a safe place for Jewish songwriters to experiment and exchange music.
It would take a decade before the liturgical music developed in the camps and at Hava Nashira entered the congregational mainstream, the same amount of time it took for NFTY and camp alum to become the next generation of rabbis, cantors, and board members of congregations.
What do you think will be the lifespan of the current fashion in Reform synagogue music?
Today’s synagogue music is no more sacred than was the 19th-century choral style. Some tunes will endure and others will fall by the wayside as fashions change. The only thing that makes a song or musical setting traditional is the willingness of Jews to choose it over and over again.
Our “Shalom Rav” is widely used in the Reform Movement today, as is the beautiful “Shalom Rav” written at about the same time by Ben Steinberg for organ and choir. Someday our rendition will go out of fashion and someone else’s will become dominant – as it should.
About the Author:
Aron Hirt-Manheimer is the Union for Reform Judaism's editor-at-large.
By Alyson Malinger
Defining one’s Judaism is a much-layered task that draws upon personal and family upbringing, society and social setting, and interactions or experiences with religion and faith. I grew up in a very actively Jewish household which prioritized community as a central embodiment of religion. For me, the creation and completion of acts as a community were my favorite part about being Jewish. Contributing to tikkun olam and gemilut hasadim formed my personal outlet to connect to my Judaism and my community. Working toward social justice was not just an added part of my everyday life, rather it was integral and it was intertwined with my Jewish identity.
On July 25-28, 2016, I attended the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia as a reporter for The Indiana Daily Student newspaper of Indiana University, where I am studying toward my BA. Our newspaper was one of the few student media outlets approved by the DNC to attend the event as official press.
Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia, PA, USA, July 2016
In June 2016 I started working as a Summer Associate at the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), contributing to the Marketing and Communications and Fundraising departments. Although I attended the DNC officially as a journalist, my identification as a Progressive Jew and my connection to the World Union did not leave my side. To me, my social justice work and my Judaism are one and the same. Being politically engaged, as defined through my eyes, is a crucial aspect of social justice because individuals should never be ignorant of current events, allowing mistakes in the past to repeat itself.
In Progressive Judaism religion must change and adapt to the needs of the day, including responding to world issues and embracing inclusion, tolerance and pluralism. Being politically engaged requires a never-ending update of the world and being able to look at an issue from multiple perspectives. Regardless of political party affiliation or lack of alliance with any candidate, I believe everyone has the responsibility to stay informed and educate themselves about the world around them.
Working at the World Union has exposed me to countless developing communities and congregations throughout the world. As I reached out to speak with congregational leaders, rabbis, individuals and World Union donors, I felt connected as a Progressive Jew living in America to the like-minded communities and individuals living in places like Spain, Hong Kong, Brazil and Russia. Even though our traditions and observances differed by country, our overall bond – of belonging to one global, Jewish family, with strong values at our core – was strong and present.
My week at the Democratic National Convention was filled with endless networking, listening to innovative speakers, witnessing spirited protests and realizing that social justice, inclusion and equality was at the heart of it all. I felt like I was embracing my Progressive Judaism in every word I listened to and wrote about and in every quote I transcribed. Participating in one of the largest events in American politics as a student journalist is an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. Progressive Judaism, on the other hand, is something that both drives and influences me on a deeper level, allowing me to see the world from a different, open perspective.
I define myself as an American Jew because I believe that my Jewish customs and traditions form the heart of my identification, while being an American citizen forms the character that is expressed as secondary. This past week, I felt proud to have my identities converge: Being politically engaged and participating in the process that is based on social justice, inclusion and equality for all, which is how I also embrace and express my Judaism.
About the author:
Originally from New Jersey and a member of Congregation Temple Shalom in Aberdeen, Alyson Malinger is currently working as a Summer Associate in the Marketing and Fundraising Departments of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) in New York. Alyson is a rising senior at Indiana University studying journalism and political science. She also serves as the Region Editor of the Indiana Daily Student focusing on the election cycle. As Alyson completes her internship and heads back to university, we want to thank her for her dedication, hard work and professionalism. She contributed greatly to our team these past few months, and we want to wish her much success in her final year of university ahead.
Representing the Moetzah, Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia, New Zealand and Asia, Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky of Beit Shalom Synagogue in Adelaide and Rabbi David Kunin of the Jewish Community of Japan embarked on their second trip to Indonesia to meet and support the emerging Progressive Jewish community.
Click here to read Rabbi Kaminsky's blog.
Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky visits Borobudur Buddhist Temple in Magelang
where she was interviewed by Muslim school students visiting the pagan site for a school project.
Interested in hearing more from the Progressive Jewish community in Australia? Then join the UPJ in Perth this November and experience Progressive life down under first hand. For more information, including how you can still register to join, click here.
The Beutel Leadership Seminar, run by the Saltz International Educational Center of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), is opening its application process for nominations of congregational and community leaders to join its prestigious ten-day seminar in Jerusalem in February 2017. Courses provide practical tools as they explore Jewish texts, current political and social issues across world Jewry and Israel, spiritual pathways and concepts of Jewish leadership, and more, all within an interactive and experiential Progressive Jewish context. Scholarships are now available for applicants and nominees.
Beutel Participants 2015 (picture by Bety Dimant)
It’s not as easy as it looks! To inquire about opportunities via e-mail, write to Rabbi Steve Burstein.
To nominate individuals from your congregation or find out how the Beutel seminar will transform your community, click here today.
Welcoming the first Progressive Taglit Birthright group of young adults
from France to our Beit Shmuel headquarters to talk about
Progressive Judaism in Israel
The eight-day tour dove deep into issues and experiences with the Progressive movement in Israel, including tours and meetings with founding congregations of the Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), activities with Netzer – Noar Telem summer camps, and a session with Shai Pinto, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the WUPJ, to understand why Progressive Judaism in Israel is so important and how the World Union represents the interests of so many from its headquarters in Jerusalem. Questions from participants explored topics such as the acceptance of Progressive Judaism in Israel, what the Kotel controversy is really about, and how young adult Progressive Jews can stay connected and actively involved with Israel from their home countries.
“It’s amazing to see the Old City and listen to what Progressive Judaism is fighting for. I know about its importance historically and religiously and yet before, being so far away in my community abroad, I didn’t feel connected to it. Like it’s something I need to pay attention to, and join others in making sure it stays open to us as well, as Jews who are Progressive and inclusive,” noted one participant.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) wishes Maria and Valery a hearty Mazal Tov and congratulations on the birth of their second child on August 1, 2016. Maria is the Chair of the FSU Committee and a member of the Executive Board of WUPJ.
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