Saturday, July 9, 2016

Spain 7 -- Shabbat

Shabbat was spent in Madrid. Though I have many, many photos (a growing number posted "alongside" this blog through shared GoogleDocs addresses) of almost every other day of the Mission, Shabbat is of course a different matter.

Fortunately, the services were completely planned, with many leaders. Having a preprinted program distributed both Friday evening and Saturday morning enables me to recollect clearly as I write now, almost a week later.

A recurring theme of our services was the use of music from Ruach HaDarom, a new Cantors Assembly publication that features music popular in Latin and South America and music written by its cantors and composers. The broad range of musical styles still has an overall lilt to it. I have enjoyed using quite a few melodies from this anthology already in the last several months.  Hearing colleagues, some of whom might be the creators themselves, perform the pieces in a service gives a lot of insight into possibilities and attractive performance practices.

Shabbat services provided the opportunity for many colleagues to stand and be heard, many of whom might not have been included in the various concerts throughout the Mission.  Among the pieces that I heard Friday night that I will want to revisit are a setting of one of the Kabbalat Shabbat psalms by Suki Berry, chanted by David Lipp at our service. And Jesse Holzer's own Havu Ladonai (Psalm 29) had a deeply inviting swing that I'll want to bring home to my congregation. Jesse isn't from Latin America and his piece isn't, of course, published in the compilation. But he really captured the feel of joy and rhythm that is a characteristic especially of our Argentinian colleagues, a style that has been enjoyed by a growing number of North American congregations.

Leon Sher seamlessly accompanied the throng of participating hazzanim: (in service order) Luis Cattan,  Jen Cohen, Marcelo Gindlin, Matt Klein, Norman Brody, Steven Hevenstone, David Lipp, Mimi Haselkorn, Jesse Holzer's, Beny Maissner, Zachary Mondrow, and Phil Baron. Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback of Stephen S. Wise Synagogue of Los Angeles gave divrei Torah Friday evening and Saturday morning.

The Shabbat morning service was led by (in order of the schedule) Jonathan Schultz, Penny Myers, Stephen Stein, Eliot Vogel, Sandy Cohn, Annelose Ocanto-Romo, Henry Rosenblum,Abe Lubin, Ofer Barnoy and Marcus Feldman. Leon Sher accompanied those who didn't sing a Capella. The Torah was read by Alan Sokoloff, Bonnie Streigold, Galit Dadoun-Cohen, and Annelise Ocanto-Romo. I had the honor of chanting the haftarah. 

I chanted the haftarah somewhat dramatically, in keeping with the clear meaning of the text. Sometimes, we fail to see the possibilities in the holy that are right in front of us. If there weren't drama inherent in our sacred books, we wouldn't still have them at the heart of what we do in synagogue and Jewish life.The prophets were a pretty dramatic bunch prose-wise and deserve, when possible, to have their messages delivered with some of the urgency of ancient days. When I provide a little spice to a Torah Aliyah or haftarah, I try to find the right balance, drawing attention to the text, not the performer. Can we draw people closer to our texts in this way, and enable them to connect to Torah and Neviim more deeply? Yes but. yes, but not everyone is prepared to chant in this way, and not everyone is necessarily prepare to recognize what's going on. Because the haftarah is typically chanted by a 13-year-old child or by someone moderately versed in Hebrew, we're not likely to hear it is way every week. But showing the possibility at least from time to time seems an important course. Thanks to the many who were so appreciative of my "prophecy" that morning.

Following Kiddush lunch, some chose to visit the Prado Museum, one of Madrid's (the wotld's, really) great treasures of art. Others had the option of visiting on Sunday afternoon, after our Sunday morning visit to Toledo.

There was also a visit early Sunday evening (Sunday "afternoon" Shabbat time-wise, as Shabbat didn't end until 10:45 p.m.) with a leader of the local Jewish community in which he described the challenges and possibilities of trying to nurture vibrant Jewish life in Madrid and in Spain. We also had the unexpected privilege of a lecture by Judith Cohen, a renowned ethnomusicologist and performer, who was herself spending some time in Spain performing this summer (as she does EACH summer).

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