On 4 February, the Centre for Living Judaism hosted its inaugural Jewish Music Workshop. Over 30 participants came together to learn a few new melodies and to sing some old favourites. Attendees included rabbis, cantors, lay leaders and congregants representing all four Victorian Progressive Synagogues.
The group included some of the most senior members of Melbourne's Jewish music community, as well as a few younger folks, interested in an introduction to Jewish music and songleading. Also in attendance were members of the board of Progressive Judaism Victoria, as well as some of Netzer's most prominent leaders.
The gathering was particularly meaningful because it was held on Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat on which we read Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea. From the joy of Carlebach's niggunim, to the spice of Craig Taubman's V'shamru, to the hope expressed in the Israeli classic, Nurit Hirsh's BaShanah Haba'ah, participants in the workshop lifted their voices in song and prayer, just as Miriam and the Israelites did when they were redeemed from slavery in Egypt. The workshop featured new Jewish music as a way to connect to the liturgy, rituals and traditions that have kept Judaism vibrant for thousands of years.
The workshop was conducted by the Centre's Jewish Life Fellows, Marshall Voit and Stephanie Gratch, each of whom has years of experience in Jewish music education. Their particular experience has been focused on less traditional styles of Jewish music than chazzanut, which made for an interesting discussion about the evolving role of music in services.
Going forward, the Fellows are anxious to continue the discussion about how we can use singing together to engage our congregants, both during and outside of services. As a platform for the discussion, Marshall and Stephanie will be leading one service per month at each of Melbourne's Progressive Shuls, with the goal being to engage congregants in singing at every turn. In addition, the Fellows will be issuing one vodcast (video podcast) per week in which they will teach a new melody or revisit an older one. New videos can be found each week on the Centre's home page, www.livingjudaism.org.au.
The Centre for Living Judaism has been established in partnership between the King David School, the Union for Progressive Judaism and Progressive Judaism Victoria, as a unified response to the challenges faced by Progressive Judaism in Australia. The Centre's mission is to consolidate and make readily available Jewish resources of all varieties, in order to unify the programming coordinated by Progressive Jewish organisations throughout Australia and New Zealand, and even as far as Singapore and Hong Kong. The Centre is most grateful for the support provided by the Jewish Communal Appeal (NSW) and the Australian Reform Zionist Association (ARZA). For more information, or for a taste of the programmatic offerings available from the Centre, please visit www.livingjudaism.org.au.