“Music for a while shall all your cares beguile”, is a well-known song written by the Baroque composer Henry Purcell. Contemporary Rabbi Jonathan Sacks puts a Jewish spin on this thought, when he writes, “Words are the language of the mind. Music is the language of the soul.” Adas Emuno is fortunate to have a strong tradition of musical participation. You are so willing to try new melodies and new music. When I sometimes say, “please feel free to sing along, even if you don’t know the music”–I truly mean it. Song is a form of prayer. It is the expression of our own, unique soul.
And so this past year during Friday night Shabbat services, we have introduced more new music than before. While remaining anchored by familiar music, each week I have endeavored to vary melodies of familiar prayers, while also adding musical settings to text that are less familiar. I introduced music from various contemporary Jewish composers, along with settings of music from other parts of our tradition such as the psalms. I played with something called “contrafaction”–imposing a tune from one tradition onto the text from another tradition, or from another part of our own tradition. We sang our Shabbat liturgy using familiar Chanukah and Passover tunes at the time of those holidays; on Memorial Day weekend we sang Lecha Dodi to the tune of America the Beautiful. And in memory of Martin Luther King on the weekend of his birthday I chanted excerpts of some of his famous speeches using Haftarah trope–the trope we use traditionally to chant the words of our own prophets, in honor of this modern prophet.
Looking back at some highlights of the year:
Our high holiday services were once again graced with the presence of our keyboard accompanist Beth Robin. We concluded Rosh Hashanah with celebrating Tashlich down at Overpeck Park by the water with plenty of music and the traditional apples and honey. Delightfully, once again this year congregational members of all ages were in attendance. Again this year we had our “indoor” Music in the Sukkah featuring our own Peter Hays and Michael Scowden on guitar, along with the voices of our teens Stella Borelli and Ula Goldstein. This past year has brought another five b'nei mitzvah students to the bimah. In my role as Cantor I met weekly with each of them, in order to prepare them to chant Torah and Haftarah and lead us in prayer. And those special days were once again graced with the musical accompaniment of Beth Robin.
We will have a report from our Religious School co-chairs but I would like to point out a couple of highlights from this past school year...
We continued the tradition of coming together as a school for special celebrations of the major holidays, as has been done in the past, thanks to help from our school committee and other parent volunteers. I also added a new dimension to our holiday programming this past year, as each individual class was given the responsibility to present a skit, poster or presentation relating to one holiday during the year. Teachers and students alike were enthusiastic about the opportunity and creativity flourished!
Attendance at Family Services continued to be high, thanks to the ongoing success of our policy implemented last year which requires students in the older grades to attend a certain number of Shabbat services each year. Thank you again to Bnei Mitzvah/Family Policy coordinator Marilyn Katz for her efforts on behalf of this program.
Confirmation Class was ably led by Rabbi Schwartz again this past year, who also led the effort to resurrect our Youth Group program. This spring saw several Youth Group events, and we look forward to watching this program continue to grow.
While I believe that the quality of our religious school education overall remains high and continues to expand, unfortunately, we can’t say the same about quantity. Enrollment in grades K-7 was down this past year. I believe that this is a trend that could be reversed, and hope that outreach efforts over the summer will yield some result.
In closing I wish to express my gratitude to the leadership of Adas Emuno, Rabbi Barry Schwartz, President Lance Strate, Ritual Chair Virginia Gitter, Buildings supervisor Michael Fishbein and the other officers and members of the board, for their ongoing support of my efforts. Most of all, I am grateful for the Religious School Parents Committee–ably led by Michael Raskin and Jody Pugach along with Susan Grey and Sandy Zornek. It takes a tremendous amount of work to run a school, and their efforts are tireless. The school after all belongs to the parents, and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with them.
Cantor Sandy Horowitz