There may be occasions when, after Religious School, you find your children singing prayers, with words you know, but tunes that are unrecognizable! You may think, since when did we start yelling out, “1, 2, 3, 4!” during Oseh Shalom!? Since when does Mi Chamocha start with the phrase, “I’ve been wading in the velvet sea?” Isn’t that a Phish song!? Or, I had no idea that the Shema started with “Fathers and Mothers!?”
You may wonder where all of your old melodies went, and is it ok that we have brand new tunes with additional lyrics–some in English!
It is okay. One of the most exciting elements of the Reform movement is the wealth of music that is coming out. Starting with Debbie Friedman in the late 1960’s, the Jewish music world has been evolving to engage as many people as possible. Having come from the Jewish camping world, I happen to have my musical radar attuned to what is being created to fit the youth. And, as Debbie Friedman said, “The Youth Shall See Vision.” With more and more music to choose from, our Religious School students are not only captivated, but they have a clearer vision of what wisdom our Fathers and Mothers have provided for us. Our students and campers are also using this clarity in vision to understand and even direct us to what it means to be a wholesome and educated Jew.
But, don’t worry, we haven’t left our past behind us. The old tunes are still here. Just a few weeks back, during Kehila Tephila (Beginning at 9:30 AM every Sunday morning that school is in session), we sang every version of Mi Chamocha we could think of. We discussed what Mi Chamocha means, its origins and where it falls in the Torah.
It is true that Judaism is a religion of traditions. However, our traditions are dynamic and alive. Our traditions aren’t confined to only one time period. Our traditions are not all misinai (from Sinai). Our traditions continue to be invented and reinvented so that we can be a growing, dynamic people. See you on Sunday!
Director of Religious Education & Sacred Music