Broadway Shabbat at Congregation Shomrei Torah

Music brings people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.”~ John Denver ~ 

I had the opportunity to attend a Friday night service at my local synagogue, Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa, CA. For those who do not know, Shomrei Torah is a progressive reform synagogue in Sonoma County.  They base their tenets on traditional, yet innovate Judaic practices.  It serves a congregation of over 400 families and strive to welcome Jewish life in any way possible. Occasionally, they have special events whether speakers discuss various topics, performers,  and a whole bunch of amazing programs throughout the year cultivating and strengthening the Jewish community throughout the region.

Last night, at their typical Friday night service was a remembrance of Broadway musicals.  The head cantorial soloist Erica Wisner, (a former singer on Broadway) arranged the traditional friday night prayers into Broadway pieces ranging from Oklahoma written by Rodgers and Hammerstein to Rent written by Jonathan Larson. It truly was remarkable. The service was led by the Assistant rabbi Stephanie Kramer, and the two cantorial soloists Erica Wisner and Malcom McElheney.  It was also accompanied by the temple’s piano accompanist, Yvonne Wormer, a drummer and  a bass guitarist (I believe).  I am a musician myself, have a love for both Jewish and Broadway tunes (being a former nyer), and have a life’s purpose of bringing people together through music.  So, seeing this collaboration of completely different musical genres coming together into an hour service of worship, in my opinion, through the power of music, demonstrates the capability of human potential, demonstrates the underlying need of a sense of community among people of different cultural backgrounds, and exercises our faith in God through music in hopes to repair the world (tikkun olam). For some, that may not know, the jewish history is a long story of faith and hope, the story of Exodus, the execution of Jews throughout the holocaust, the spanish inquisition, and other traumatic events throughout time. Yet, we have fought as a people throughout our endurance, throughout our faith and throughout our belief for a better world, tikkum olam. That being said,  witnessing all of these motivational forces through works of art was truly spectacular. As seen last night, music essentially is a metaphor of human experience…

My favorite selection last night was Misheberiach, the jewish prayer of healing… It was arranged to You’ll Never Walk Alone by Rodgers and Hammerstein from the musical Carousel. Over the years of living in California, this has become my favorite Jewish prayer and traditionally this has been my favorite Broadway tune… The song’s message of resilience and hope combined with the prayer’s message for healing of both individuals and groups, not only shows the influence of prayer, but also exemplifies the courageous inner strength to overcome anything that life throws at us.   This need for our inner strength and our prayers for the healing of others, described in the music, is applicable even today.  For example,  all the school shootings, the fires taken place in Sonoma County, the illnesses that still prevail. We pray for the healing of those individual but ultimately, we are also praying for them through our faith to God, that they can overcome their difficult situations. In light of this, music veritably is what human beings are (Schneck, p.28)  A mirror of our deepest needs, desires, emotional experiences and behaviors….

Last night was not only a dedication to Broadway musicals, but furthermore it was a ceremony of prayer to faith in god, a hope for unconditional love for all including the Jewish people, an aspiration to unite the human race.  Having the opportunity to attend last night’s service was truly a blessing. It reminded me of my own dedication to the Jewish people, to have faith in my own situation and continue striving to do my share of tikkun olam.

Thank you Shomrei Torah 🙂

” It is hope that gives life meaning. And hope is based on the prospect of being able one day to turn the actual world into a possible one that looks better.”~ Francois Jacob

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