By Carla Friend, Yachad Ashira - A Jewish Community Music School
Klezmer music is commonly known as the instrumental music traditions of Ashkenazi Jews. What you might not know, nor will Wikipedia inform you, is that the term “Klezmer”, as most of us know it, came about 40 years ago here in New York City! The coining of the term for this genre of music was part of an initiative by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD) to recover this art form.
“We take Klezmer music for granted now but when we started [this initiative], the musicians didn't really call it 'Klezmer music',” says Peter Rushefsky, Executive Director at CTMD. In 1978, they did a concert series with David Tarras, sparking a huge interest in promoting and resuscitating the art form. Their researchers were searching for a spicy term to use when one of them suggested using the word “klezmer,” previously a somewhat derogatory Yiddish term used to refer to less-than-trained folk musicians. “It’s kind of amazing,” Rushefsky says, “40 years later, it’s embedded in world music.”
By Sarah L. Knapp, OutdoorFest
I didn't mean to become a social entrepreneur. It happened so fast and before I knew it my tweets had a funny new hashtag and my happy hours became filled with people who complained not of their day at work but of world problems.
I had grappled with the decision to leave my job for months, but when the day finally came for me to quit and start my own venture, everything shifted dramatically. A new world of flexible titles, hours and business plans opened before me. The day after I quit I could either be unemployed or an entrepreneur. Or with zero revenue perhaps the distinction was between an avid hobbyist and a businesswoman.
Anyway, as a committed hobbyist I jumped right in to creating the yet unnamed OutdoorFest. I was building the festival of my dreams to strengthen the outdoor community in NYC. Yet I began to discover this wasn’t just about organizing outdoor enthusiasts but rather building a platform that could shift urban lifestyles and, ultimately, change city culture.
By David Glazer, Shira l'Tefillah
Ever since I was a kid, I was indoctrinated into praying three times every day. I never challenged or asked questions about what I was saying, nor did I understand it either. I did not particularly enjoy prayer or find meaning in it. I found it monotonous, uninspiring, and boring. It wasn't until I was in Israel for my gap year that I went to my first Carlebach minyan on a Friday night. According to Wikipedia, a Carlebach Minyan is a Jewish prayer service that follows the style of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and uses the melodies he composed for many prayers. These minyanim are distinctive for their emphasis on singing the liturgy, often using Carlebach's original nigunim. According to Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, Carlebach "changed the expectations of the prayer experience from decorous and somber to uplifting and ecstatic as he captivated generations with elemental melodies and stories of miraculous human saintliness, modesty and unselfishness. "
This experience opened my eyes to the idea that music and melodies can be used to not only enhance one's involvement in their tefillah but to give people a new understating as to the reason we pray. Music stirs the soul and helps individuals reach places within themselves that they never thought possible. That evening, I found myself being enveloped by the music and the words naturally flowing from my lips; similar to hearing a favorite song of mine to which I begin to automatically sing to.
By Dalia Davis, The Akara Project
This year the world lost an icon in the Israeli music world, Arik Einstein (z”l). With his passion for social change and idealistic spirit he composed the well-known song Ani V’ata Neshaneh et Ha’olam (You and I will change the world). As my fellow PresenTense fellows and I looked to this song for inspiration in a seminar on Visioning, one line in particular jumped out at me. “Ani v’ata ne’naseh mehatchalah” (you and I will start at the beginning). As we progressed through the seminar and attempted dreaming, designing, and articulating our visions, it became very clear to me that my visions for The Akara Project are long range and riveting. With my suitcase full of plans for my venture, I am very much at the beginning of a journey. According to Einstein, a very appropriate place to start.
However, the beginning is not always the most comfortable and pleasant place. In this seminar, we characterized beginnings as Egypt—the place that one must leave in order to travel through the wilderness and arrive in the Promised Land. I see and hear this Egypt often. The other day I stood next to a woman struggling with infertility while another woman asked her advice about what to name the child she was carrying in her womb. Shortly thereafter, I was with another woman who has been trying to conceive for years and witnessed another woman ask her how long she’s been married, express surprise when hearing the high number, and go on to share with great pride that she bore three children in three years. These women are in Egypt. As long as we remain a community in which we cease to educate ourselves and our members towards a greater level of sensitivity, we are all in Egypt together. It is time to get out and begin our journey.
By Alyssa Berkowitz, L'gasher Et Ha'paar (Bridge the Gap)
Every runner knows that training for a race is a process of elaborate planning and goal setting. We start by training our bodies: logging miles and building strength. Next we train our minds: we become familiar with the intensity that comes along with rigorous, habitual training and learn what to do when we “hit a wall.” We blister, know down to the minute when we will need to eat, and know what activities we enjoy after a training run. I have been a runner for close to five years, but never once have I trained for setbacks. That is, until now.
What do I mean by "training for a setback?" This weekend, I ran my third half marathon ever, the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half, which is the first of three I plan to run in the next four months. At mile 9, which is usually where I hit that lovely sweet spot where tenacity and focus push me to the finish line, I felt a sharp pain course up my ankle. I winced (trying to ignore my pain), and finished, only to end up in the doctor’s office later that day with a torn ligament. As the doctor taught me to walk with crutches, I watched the dream of breaking personal records and trying new courses vanish before my eyes. A setback in every sense of the definition.
PresenTense NYC Fellowship
Igniting social change in the NYC Jewish community.