The Cantors Take Italy- And You’re Invited!

Question- and stay with me here- have you ever hung out with a group of Cantors?

You might be thinking “ Wow, I’m imagining a bunch of people talking over each other, singing over each other, comparing Tfilah and Trope styles and their favorite old time Hazzanim.”

And you’d be somewhat right! Or, well, kind of right; it depends heavily on which kind of Cantors you are hanging out with. Continue reading →

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Skee Ball

skee ball gameI love skee ball. My family and I have made this frivolous summer activity into a competitive, ticket hording sport. Rehoboth’s Funland costs .25 cents per game for 8 balls and a long runway before the jump to the targets. Zinky’s, also on the boardwalk, is .10 cents per game with 6 balls and a shorter runway. We have examined the pros, the cons, the prizes and the techniques of the game and the arcades. My younger sister has a t-shirt with Joseph Fourestier Simpson’s 1908 patent for this classic boardwalk game.

While competing for the family Skee Ball Championship title is certainly motivating, the laughter, ice cream cone(s), walks along the beach and afternoon naps makes this summer ritual truly special. It is a chance to reconnect with each other and reground ourselves. Continue reading →

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Add Some Jewish to Your Summer Reading

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. As we are entering summer, I offer the Jewish Journal’s summer reading list.  Before I get to this list, I will finish Karen Bender’s collection of short stories, The New Order.  Remember to check the recurring articles in the Scroll for our Library Committee’s recommendations too.  Click here for their reading list.  

Continue reading →

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Expanding Our Jewish World Through Music

At the WUST Jewish Community Radio on May 17 to preview the Bima to Broadway to Beltway Concert

At the studios of WUST Jewish Community Radio on May 17 to preview the Bima to Broadway to Beltway Concert

As I sat in on the final rehearsal for the Bima To Broadway To Beltway concert listening to a rendition of “Gesher” by Judith Silver, I couldn’t help thinking how cool this concert was going to be.

Yes “cool” is absolutely the word for it.  Hazzanim Arianne Brown, Elisheva Dienstfry and Hinda Labovitz created this show for the DC Jewish Music Festival last spring and clearly spent a lot of time considering music that was parts modern, playful, soulful and funny as well. Continue reading →

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Refocusing on the ‘Big Picture’

Celebrating high school graduation

In parenting, it is too easy to forget the ‘big picture.’  The immediate overwhelms the senses and focuses my attention on the messy room or the homework assignment not yet begun.  Maybe the fabrication of short term emergencies causes an adrenaline surge reminiscent of our ancestors’ ‘fight or flight’ responses… except they were fleeing wild beasts and pogroms.  With the intense focus on the present, it is common to miss a larger perspective.  Life’s milestone moments can help shift our view.

I was unprepared for the effect “Pomp and Circumstance” would have on me.  The high school orchestra had been playing various musical selections.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were because just a few weeks prior I had attended an elementary school’s instrumental performance.  The delta between the musicianship of each group was apparent.  That alone should have emphasized for me that over time, people and skills develop in beautiful ways.

Continue reading →

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Nusach- It’s not just for Cantors anymore

Tomorrow night  I will be teaching a class for Tikkun Leil Shavuot on the beauty of Nusach ( The Soul of Jewish Music) as I call it.

Before we continue, some definitions are in order.

Like many concepts in Jewish practice, Nusach can have a few different meanings.

It can refer literally to the text of the siddur you use, be it Askenazic, Sephardic, Chabad Hasidic, or to the melodic setting in which you chant the prayers of the Siddur.

Naturally, the chanting will be my point of focus here. Continue reading →

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Praying Outdoors

This is the fifth week of the month and allows for another outside blog.  This 2011 post in eJewishPhilanthropy was written by Rabbi Michael Comins, the founder of TorahTrek: The Center for Jewish Wilderness Spirituality.  As we are shifting to summer, we will have many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Make sure to appreciate the natural surroundings, the awe of the world and to be open to the possibility of a different type of spiritual / religious experience. 

Tomorrow night (May 31), we will enjoy the Kol Haneshama Friday night service under the evening sky.  Join us at 6:30pm at Beth El.  Later in the summer (tentatively Friday, July 12), we will meet at Greenwich Park for an evening picnic and service as well.

We connect with each other, our surroundings and the Divine differently when we are outside so let’s seize each opportunity.  Enjoy the blog.

Continue reading →

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Don’t take the remembrance out of Memorial Day

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter.  As we are entering the Memorial Day weekend, this blog was originally posted in ‘The Hill’ in 2017.  It reminds of the men and women who lost their lives in defense of our country.  To them and their families, we owe a great debt.  זֵכֶר צדִּיק לִבְרָכָה – May the memory of the righteous be blessed.

 

Don’t take the remembrance out of Memorial Day

originally posted: May 28, 2017, The Hill

By Cliff Sosamon

What does Memorial Day mean to you? Is it a day off work, time spent grilling with family and friends? A day to grab the hottest discounts on cars and electronics – perhaps a needed new mattress? Or maybe a day to catch a game and enjoy a cold one or two?

It seems over the years Memorial Day has come to represent the luxuries of Western society and the best sales since Presidents’ Day. Retailers are more than willing to give the American public just what they want – sales.

Continue reading →

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A Personal Reflection: My Kids’ B’nai Mitzvah

Recently, I’ve been looking at the calendar with different eyes. A month from now, Ariel and Catalina, my oldest son and my oldest daughter will become B’nai mitzvah, G-d willing. Day to day, the calendar moves slowly. But, the years have passed in the blink of an eye.

While my two older children are 15 months apart in age, they are preparing to celebrate their milestone together. Some of you may have already seen some pictures of Ari on Facebook, wrapping tefillin. The day on the Jewish calendar he became 13 years old, he took the responsibility of mitzvoth and therefore he is trying to fulfill all the mitzvoth an adult is commanded.

On the day of their B’nai Mitzvah, both will be called to the Torah. That act will be the public manifestation, in front of their family, friends and community that they are committed to a life of mitzvoth. Continue reading →

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Why Do(n’t) You Go To Shul?

I once had a colleague that said- tongue and cheek- the reason he became a Rabbi was to make the service seem faster- since it always seems to progress more quickly when one is on the Bima.

True, it does. But I quite like it in the pews as well, where I don’t have to do anything but relax, reflect and pray.

What do you like? Do you like to come into the synagogue on a Monday, Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday? Do you prefer the shorter weekday service or longer more lyrical Shabbat experience?

What kind of meaning do these experiences bring you and if you don’t find yourself in the synagogue to pray often, what is your connection here? Continue reading →

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