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We’d like a louder and broader Jewish voice

I’m actually, actually beginning to dislike the phrase “iconic,” particularly as a result of I overuse it. One among my resolutions for the approaching yr is to interrupt that behavior.

However, generally, it suits. I might eagerly connect the adjective “iconic” to singer-songwriter Craig Taubman. He’s a veteran composer and performer of Jewish music, and never simply Jewish music. 

He’s additionally not “simply” a musician. He’s a seeker and producer of that means, and a creator of group.

I spent a couple of minutes the opposite day catching up with Craig. We talked in regards to the climate in Los Angeles (scorching — actually scorching!), and the warmth that his group, The Pico Union Project, has generated.

Craig: “My spouse and I purchased the Pico property about ten years in the past. It was the primary residence of Sinai Temple. It was the place I celebrated turning into Bar Mitzvah, bought married and created Friday Night time Dwell with Rabbi David Wolpe. It occurred to be the oldest synagogue construction in Los Angeles.

“We thought that we may flip it right into a cool place, right into a vacation spot venue. We’d usher in nice music, nice meals, and even nice scotch. My daughter advised me: “You must ask the individuals in that space what they want. You’re not only a musician; you’re a group builder. She put all of it collectively for me. For the final ten years, we’ve been bringing individuals collectively — individuals from all completely different backgrounds, all completely different lessons, and it has been wonderful. Our precept is: “Love your neighbor as your self.’

“There are three religion communities that meet right here: a black church, a Latino church, and a Jewish group. We’ve got introduced in wonderful music, like Idan Rachel, Jackson Browne, Rhiannon Giddens, and the Klezmatics. Throughout the week, we do lots of social service packages. We distribute twenty thousand kilos of produce every week.

“It additionally occurs to be within the poorest neighborhood in Los Angeles. We’re in a meals desert. The closest grocery retailer is 2 miles away. Individuals can’t get recent produce, in order that they eat unhealthy meals. It mirrored what occurred throughout COVID; over three thousand individuals in our district died of the illness. However, not in our rapid neighborhood — due to the meals distribution program.

“We do well being screenings, COVID screenings — it has been an fascinating journey. Fifteen hundred individuals every week cross our threshold.”

Jeff: “That is wonderful stuff. It makes me surprise: Produce other communities imitated your mannequin?”

Craig: “In Helena, Montana, a gaggle simply bought the oldest synagogue on the town again from the Catholic diocese. They name the initiative the Montana Venture.

“I advised them: ‘The percentages of you creating a powerful Jewish group in Helena are fairly slim.

“However, if you wish to create a Jewish presence right here that mirrors Jewish values, which may work, and you’ll serve the group with these values.’ They preferred that. It really means you could have Jewish values with out Jews!

Jeff: “So, in a smaller group the place there are few or no Jews, there can nonetheless be reverberations of Jewish values. Type of like, Judaism with out Jews. I actually do must suppose extra about that.”

Craig: “So, I used to be speaking with Ron Wolfson [the visionary Jewish educator and thought leader] the opposite day, as we had been driving to Orange County to honor Pastor Rick Warren, on the event of his retirement from Saddleback Church.

“Ron was telling me about an thought that’s intriguing him — getting all of the individuals on this planet who’ve some Jewish DNA in them, and getting them to change into our allies.

“‘So, that’s thousands and thousands upon thousands and thousands of individuals, whom we hope will see themselves inside the Jewish narrative. However, what’s in it for them? Right here’s an thought: Create a celebration for all these individuals who have some Jewish stuff in them, and invite them to inform their tales, and to ask them, with no agenda, to inform their tales.

“‘Hmnn!’ mentioned Ron. ‘That would work!’

“What number of thousands and thousands of {dollars} has the Jewish group spent in battling BDS? Why not take that cash and invite Christian and Muslim school children to affix Jewish children on journeys to Israel. Collectively they may be taught the great, the unhealthy, and the ugly, and allow them to come to their very own conclusions, and inform their very own tales?”

Jeff: “So, you’re seeking to broaden the Jewish palette. Very fascinating, and a really compelling thought. That brings me to “Jewels of Elul,” your pre-Excessive Holy Day every day set of readings. It appears to me that that is exactly what you might be doing.”

Craig: “Precisely. For those who’re going to publish inspirations for the 29 days of Elul, main as much as Rosh Ha Shanah, why restrict it to 1 voice, when you will get 29 completely different voices?

“Within the first yr, it was largely rabbis and different Jewish leaders — principally, associates of mine. However then, within the second yr, I invited Pastor Cecil “Chip” Murray. He’s 93 years previous now and a outstanding man, who single-handedly stopped the Rodney King riots. I put him in there as a result of it was in regards to the artwork of loving your neighbor. Somebody wrote to me, and mentioned: ‘What can I presumably be taught in regards to the Excessive Holy Days from a n—–?’”

Jeff: “My God. I merely can not get my thoughts round that — that somebody would really say such a factor.”

Craig: “I mentioned: ‘Wow.’ That anybody may suppose that this can be a Jewish method to consider Jewish ritual shocked me! So, I opened ‘Jewels of Elul’ method up. As a result of the one method that I can select to like my neighbor, or to not love my neighbor, is by figuring out my neighbor. If i’m solely listening to the identical voices — largely rabbis who’re my age — how can I anticipate me or anybody to develop?

“So, sure, we broke it open, and we discovered many allies. Did I agree with all of them? No. I didn’t must. We’d like extra voices now — greater than ever earlier than. Cease telling individuals the way you disagree with them; discover locations the place you do agree.

Jeff: “I’ve to inform you — I’ve beloved ‘Jewels.’ I like seeing the folks that I love in there, and you’ve got performed an incredible job of bringing in unknown or much less identified voices. You even have this factor about discovering celebrities and getting them to speak about their lives. Who’ve been your favourite lecturers that you’ve got included over time?”

Craig: “Rabbi Harold Shulweis, of blessed reminiscence. I like the way in which he taught us to go from ‘is’ to ‘ought.’ It’s not about what Jews are; it’s about what they should be. It’s not about what a synagogue is; it’s about what a synagogue should be. Not what Judaism is; what Judaism should be. Not what Israel is; what Israel should be. ‘Ought’ strengthens ‘is.’

“I like the range of people that have written for ‘Jewels.’ Girl Gaga and the Dalai Lama have written for us. However the stuff that spoke to me probably the most had been the individuals who merely advised tales out of the depths of their very own beings and experiences – in regards to the moments, reminiscences and epiphanies that modified them.

“Hey, Jeff, do you keep in mind the jewel you wrote for us a number of years in the past?”

Jeff: “No. You’ll have to remind me.”

So here it’s:

Generally, a Broadway present isn’t just a efficiency. It’s a dream set to music.

That was my expertise once I noticed “The Band’s Go to”, the multi-Tony Award-winning musical model of the Israeli movie of the identical title. “The Band’s Go to” is the story of an Egyptian police band, booked to sing within the Israeli metropolis of Petach Tikvah (“with a p”). By means of a easy linguistic error, the band winds up in a small desert city — Beit Hatikva (“with a b”). There, a café proprietor, Dina, invitations them to remain the night time, as an unresolved romantic rigidity between her and the captain of the band grows.

“The Band’s Go to” portrays Israeli Jews and Egyptian Muslims as dwelling collectively for a single night time. Forty-five years in the past, Israel and Egypt fought a struggle in opposition to one another. Nobody appears to recollect. Their particular person cultures stream imperceptibly between them. The music is enchanting in its blurring of Arab and Center Japanese Jewish modes.

“The Band’s Go to” is nearly a messianic second. Israeli Jews present hachnasat orchim, hospitality, for Egyptian strangers — simply as our frequent father Abraham did for sojourners in the identical desert that now homes Beit Hatikva. Individuals see themselves as merely individuals – with secrets and techniques, longings, and love.

Thanks, Craig.

I nearly forgot.

 

 

 

 

 

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