Klezmer Swing Orchestra offers klezmer music for Jewish wedding and Bar Mitzvah

L’orchestre pour mariage juif Amsellem Swing Klezmer Orchestra joue des horot (Mazel Tov, Siman Tov…) pour animer cocktail de mariage, de Bar Mitzvah, cérémonie, Houppa et réceptions.
Les plus belles horas jouées par notre orchestre.

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A Different Kind of Holocaust Memorial – Atlanta Jewish Times (blog)

As a twelve-year attendee of Jewish day schools, you might say that I am somewhat of a self-proclaimed expert in Holocaust Memorial Assemblies.

The texts and the soundtracks of these gatherings are fairly standard, even if they are not always in the same order. Holocaust assemblies tend to feature speeches reflecting on remembrance, alongside a survivors testimony. Classic poems like Zeldas Every Person Has a Name add a sense of solemnity to the occasion. The singing of HaTikvah (usually at the end) creates a sense of hope after destruction. In recent years, in Georgia in particular, there has also been a beautiful movement to plant daffodil gardens (as we have done in our own synagogue) to memorialize the 1.5 million children who were killed during the Shoah.

But for one notable, powerful exception, the Holocaust assembly that I attended on Wednesday would have followed this standard schematic. Instead, however, what left me deeply touched was that it was organized by high school students at the Devereux Center for Advanced Behavioral Health.

Devereux, according to its literature, is a facility committed to positively impacting the lives of children, adolescents, and young adults who are experiencing emotional or behavioral challenges. Its students, who come from all over the country, typically have undergone a traumatic experience in their lives or a kind of failure to thrive in the system. The Devereuxassembly had all the standard elements. But what I had not anticipated was that Hatikvah would be sung by a non-Jewish music teacher trained to use music as therapy. I never imagined that our classic Zelda poem and other parts of Jewish liturgy could be recited and resonate by non-Jewish students who know deeply what it means to experience hard times. The survivor testimony was provided by our local consul general to Israel, but nearly all of otherwise standard rituals of the day were executed by non-Jews. All of this, as you may imagine, made this ceremony far from standard.

As Jews, there can be an understandable tendency to claim exclusive ownership over the Shoah experience. Yet having witnessed a non-Jewish community connect so deeply to the Shoah, I must confess how deeply moved I was by the way that the lessons of the Shoah resonated with thisbroader audience. I cant help but believe that for the students at Devereux, lessons like exclusion, and Hatikvah, hope that follows suffering, must have struck a chord.

After the assembly, I walked through the gate in the twenty-foot high fence and joined another colleague and several students who planted their own Daffodil garden. We concluded with the Shehechiyanu: not only for them, but for me, as I wasprivileged to witness this sacred moment in the lives of these ever-blooming, growing, young souls.

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Spiritual Bond Emerges From Sharing Mikvah | Atlanta Jewish Times – Atlanta Jewish Times

When I first suggested to my daughter that she go to the mikvah, it was a nonstarter. She was 12. Her bat mitzvah was months away, but I wanted her to consider the possibility.

My interest in Jewish ritual bath began in high school. For my final project in a Jewish studies class at my high school, I chose to focus on mikvah.

A budding feminist and fiercely curious Jew, I was filled with questions about my own identity. But in the end, I only felt more confused and challenged by the tradition of married women immersing after their period and before resuming marital intimacy.

Still, when I prepared to marry less than a decade later, I chose to dip in the mikvah. I wanted to connect with the act that had for centuries been a hallmark of the transition from single life to married life. It was a powerfully meaningful experience: a pause in the chaos of planning, a celebration of my womanhood, a reminder of the sacred nature of the commitment I was about to undertake.

Not nearly another decade passed, and a rabbi friend was about to celebrate her oldest becoming a bar mitzvah. As she rattled off the list of things that needed to get done, I asked her how she was doing spiritually.

Startled by the question, she got emotional. I suggested that she consider a dip in the mikvah.

The following year, when I prepared for ordination, she returned the favor and accompanied me for a visit to the mikvah ahead of my taking on the mantle of the rabbinate.

Today, mikvah has become a key part of my spiritual lexicon, adding so much to my life at moments of transition.

In the mikvah, tears of fear, joy, anxiety, loss and hope melt into the waters. Sometimes, as with any ritual, it feels rote, but more often than not it is an extraordinary experience.

And so, as my daughter prepared for her bat mitzvah, I wanted to share the gift of this tradition with her. Her teenage hesitations were different from the ones that had troubled me decades before; it was unfamiliar and odd.

Luckily, my cause garnered support when her close friend immersed for her bat mitzvah. Despite some hesitations, my daughter took the plunge.

Now mikvah has become something we share. Ahead of our move to Atlanta, at the beginning of the Jewish year, we went to the mikvah.

Each of us takes her own time in these sacred waters, says her own prayers, has her own experience. Just as I have taken to teaching at our local mikvah about Jewish tradition and innovation and the possibilities of modern ritual, she has taken to talking about the power of mikvah to counter the judgmental toxicity teens often experience when it comes to their bodies.

At the March 16 celebration of MACoM, the Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah, Rabbi Alvin Sugarman spoke of the unique power of the mikvah water to ignite the fire of the soul.

Dipping into naturally sourced water connects us with an ancient tradition and offers us the potential for renewal. As we head into spring, into the busy Passover and tax seasons, consider experiencing the possibility for yourself.

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Jewish Music Unfolds – Omaha Reader

Music by Jewish composers resounds Sunday from the stage at Omahas Jewish Community Center. The concert is called Voices and the reason could be due to 5 Songs for Soprano and String Quartet by Karl Weigl. Evidently he was influenced by Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf and wrote these in 1934 at a time when being Jewish in his homeland was becoming more and more precarious. He managed to flee to the U.S. not long thereafter.

Among the five, he set words from the folk songs and poems in Des Knaben Wunderhorn, which had also inspired Mahler, Invitation for Supper at Martinmas, as well as words from of the traditional Catholic prayer Ave Maria as transformed by Rudolf List. The others are Consolation, Summer Afternoon, and Rain Song, with texts by Ina Seidel, by wife Vally Weigl and Klaus Groth. Soprano Jaime Reimer is featured. Shes performed with Opera Omaha, the Lincoln Symphony and more.

The earliest work is from 1909 and is by Max Bruch, likewise German. These are the lyrical and rhapsodic Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Cello and Piano which have been personified as sensual and sentimental with an autumnal maturity of expression, deeply felt but purged of excess, according to Dr. Richard E. Rodda

American violist Lillian Fuchs wrote her solo viola Sonata Pastorale in 1956 when she was 55. The two-part composition has been described as accessibly quasi-baroque while making great demands on the performer. Omaha Symphonys Associate Principal Violist Brian Sherwood takes on the challenge.

The other artists heard are violinists Elizabeth Furuta and Juliet Yoshida, violist Thomas Kluge, cellist Sam Pierce Ruhland, and Carmelo Galente playing the clarinet. They are all with the Symphony. Joining them is Yulia Kalishnikovaat the piano; shes on the faculty at Creighton University.

These composers have since left us. They left behind remarkable sounds.

Voices is March 26th, Jewish Community Center, 333 S. 132 St. Sun. 7 p.m. Free. http://www.omahachambermusic.org/

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How to Navigate a Shared Mitzvah Date – Atlanta Jewish Times

Yippee, you got your first choice of bar or bat mitzvah date! But so did another family at your synagogue.

Concerned about how this will work? No problem. Here are seven ways to ensure the bimah buddy experience goes smoothly:

Meet with the other family. Maybe you know the other family already, and maybe you dont. Either way, its a good idea to establish friendly relations from the beginning. Get to know a little about the parents and all their kids. You dont want to be strangers on the big day.

Tip: Like a first date, meet for a quick bite (frozen yogurt or bagels) rather than commit to a long meal. If you hit it off, you can make another date to meet up socially.

Team up teens. Encourage your teens to at least become friendly acquaintances. Itll make the big day less nerve-racking to know they have each others back.

Maybe they can support each others mitzvah project or, better yet, complete one together. Remind them to acknowledge each other (if appropriate at your synagogue) when they speak from the pulpit. (Example: Jamie, it was an honor to share this day with you.)

Share plans. Are you both planning evening functions? Who wants the synagogue for Shabbat dinner? Talk about your proposed schedules to eliminate confusion when you start making venue arrangements and reviewing synagogue fees.

Also, talk about the number of guests youre each expecting so that you can make fair arrangements for oneg Shabbat and Kiddush luncheon, and ensure therell be enough kippot and service programs.

Talk Hebrew. Your kids may be at different levels of Hebrew proficiency. Does one want to do more prayers and the other doesnt? Talk about it and know that it isnt a competition. Your family and friends are there to support your mitzvah kid; no ones comparing them.

Cash in on collaboration. There is strength in numbers. Use the pairing to your benefit. Can you save on shipping costs by ordering kippot together? Can you negotiate a better rate by choosing the same hotel for your out-of-town guests, doubling the room block?

Meet in the middle. Compromises will likely need to be made, so go into this venture with flexibility. Make sure youre prepared to make the case for things vital to your family, but be willing to bend on elements that are more important to the other family.

Make time for mazel tov. Remember that youre part of the same community, and kvell with your bimah buddies for a moment after the service. Appreciate that youve just fulfilled a mitzvah by witnessing another young boy or girl complete a bar or bat mitzvah service.

Mazel tov all around.

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Holocaust Survivor a Bar Mitzvah at 85 – Atlanta Jewish Times

Leon Asner never got to celebrate becoming a bar mitzvah when he was 13 years old. The Nazis and World War II made that impossible for the native of Belgium.

Now 85 and a retired tailor, he finally celebrated becoming a Jewish man during a special service Sunday, March 19, at the Marcus Hillel Center at Emory in front of nearly 100 people, most of them Emory students who did not know him until that afternoon.

Today you have fulfilled the last commandment and have proven to everyone that it is never too late to be the person you want to be and to do the things that we think will make us complete, said Anat Granath, who has worked with Asner for years through Jewish Family & Career Services Holocaust Survivor Services.

Leon Asner gets a kiss as well as a gift from DPhiE.

You are an inspiration, not just to all those who witnessed you just now, but to all those who are fortunate enough to know you, said Granath, who arranged for the bar mitzvah service after Asner approached her with the idea several months ago.

Rabbi Claudio Kaiser-Blueth presided over the ceremony, read Torah and guided Asner through the necessary blessings.

Emory students, including members of Sigma Delta Tau, Delta Phi Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Mu and Alpha Tau Omega, brought Asner gifts to celebrate his simcha, which naturally included lots of food and dancing.

Asner has the energy and humor of a man half his age, Granath said, and he has never let the lack of a ceremony stop him from leading a Jewish life.

Leon Asner and friends dance in celebration.

Asner did not talk about his Holocaust experience, which included his hiding from the Nazis and losing his parents, but he tearfully explained the miracle that led him to seek a bar mitzvah celebration.

One day at home he prayed to have a chance to go to Belgium to say Kaddish for his father. A few days later, something happened while I was sleeping and I was awake, he said. A big, bright light came in through my window, through closed blinds. I thought the window was on fire, and I realized that was the light of G-d. I have seen the light of G-d, so help me, and things changed for me and I decided to have bar mitzvah. That is about all I can say. And it was a miracle, so I share that miracle with you.

Photos by Michael Jacobs

Assisted by Hillels of Georgia Executive Director Rabbi Russ Shulkes, Rabbi Claudio Kaiser-Blueth blesses Leon Asner after the Torah ceremony.

Bar mitzvah man Leon Asner carries the Torah before his first aliyah.

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Coming soon: Bar Mitzvah events on Temple Mount – Arutz Sheva

Jewish visitors on Temple Mount

Zac Wajsgras/Flash90

Under the headline “Don’t settle for the Wall,” a new initiative was launched by the Students for the Temple Mount movement, which seeks to bring Bar Mitzvah boys to the site to celebrate the special day.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Maayan Magen, the organization’s spokeswoman, talks about the project and what is behind it. “We all know of the Bar Mitzvah celebrations at the Kotel, and many families come to celebrate there and hold a tefillin ceremony and a Torah ceremony with musicians, etc. It would be well and fine if it was not part of the myth that gave the Wall a central place in Jewish consciousness. We want to focus attention back to the Temple Mount.”

Magen continues and notes that many want to experience the special day in a significant fashion and “it is important that they go up a level and have a different and meaningful experience. And it is important for us to change the perception.”

Magen was asked whether Bar Mitzvah age is the right age to experience the delays at the entrance to the mountain, the accompanying Wakf, the Muslim aggression on the Mount, the restrictions on Jews, and more. According to her, the current reality on the mountain has changed and things are simpler today than in the past, even if it is not yet a completely positive reality. “It’s a bit simpler now; things have changed in waiting at the entrance to the mountain and the Morbittat [screaming Arab women] have been removed from the mountain. We are in the midst of a struggle over the Mount.” However, she adds, “things depend on the willingness of the family and on the family’s understanding that it will not be the easiest but it will be very joyous and exciting and very successful.”

“The Temple Mount is not a political place, it’s the purest and most holy place where you can have a very good experience,” she says. “There are young children who go up to the mountain with proper guidance and are very excited about the place of the Temple. Many have already ascended with no problem,” she says.

Perhaps, Magen was asked, all the publicity, even of Arutz Sheva, about the difficulties on the Temple Mount present an obstacle to an initiative such as the one she is currently promoting, after the public is accustomed to hear that ascending to the Temple Mount involves confrontation with Muslims and Waqf members, restrictions and discrimination against Jews. Magen makes it clear that despite everything she says about the relative ease of going up to the mountain, “it’s not all right, everything is far from right, and it’s important to raise awareness of the absurdity of the restrictions on Jews on the Mount. It does not contradict that you can go up and experience other things and you can connect from another experience.”

About her target audience, Magen explains, “The first people we turn to are the ones who are more connected to the subject, but it’s widening,” she says, adding: “Traditional families and those who want to connect to a place of holiness and importance are joining. Traditional and religious families will join in. There have already been several requests,” she reports.

And what exactly does the package include, the initiative that is organized and staffed by volunteers from the Students for the Temple Mount? Magen describes a reception with live musicians for the Bar Mitzvah and his family at the entrance to the Temple Mount, where the aliya to the Torah takes place and the boy puts on tefillin with a Torah scroll that will be brought to the entrance to the Mount, where a table similar to ones at the Temple Mount plaza will be installed. Then, “the boy goes up with the family to the Mount after proper preparation, with close guidance, and then on the descent from the mountain, we receive him with much joy, and then according to the family’s choice – a tour of the Temple Institute or a restaurant or anything else happening at the Western Wall plaza.”

And what about the police and the authorities? “They will know of the project,” she says, convinced that there should be no problem on the part of the police or various authorities in waiting to enter the Mount and leading the entire project. What about the Waqf? Magen does not sound particularly deterred, “I do not know what they will do, we are connecting to our holy place and will not let go of it.”

Toward the end of her remarks, Magen stresses that this is not a project aimed at harassing or pestering anyone but rather “bringing the people back to the right place.”

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Music Review: Lev Tahor 5 (LTV) – The Commentator

In Shabbos 21b, the Talmud introduces the idea that there is something special about girsa diyankusa, the things we learn when we are young. Commenting on that passage, Rashi explains that girsa diyankusa lasts better than the things we learn when we are older. The typical understanding of that Talmudic passage follows that implied line of thinking: for whatever reason, we remember the things we learn in our youth better than information we acquire later in life.

Rav Kook takes a broader approach in expounding this idea. He writes about the important role that our younger years play in the formation of our personalities. For Rav Kook, the years of our youth are the years we should spend absorbing experiences and knowledge that we can synthesize and use to develop into the people we become as we get older. Generally, children are more open and imaginative than adults, and as such, the things we encounter when we are young powerfully impact who we are as adults.

If youre the age of an average YU undergrad and you grew up listening to Jewish music, theres a good chance that Lev Tahor was a big part of your childhood. Their albums came out when we were in elementary school and stayed popular through our high school years (and even later). Lev Tahor was the perfect mix of exciting and spiritually elevating; they captivated us and we became super-fans. Their original songs and acapella arrangements dominated our kumzitzes and jam sessions and we spent hours trying to outdo each other with our best Schwebel voices.

The best Jewish music should uplift us, as the singers and the listeners join together, their hearts unified in praising and calling out to their Creator. For many of us, Lev Tahor was an important part of the earliest years we spent forming our religious personalities. The way that we relate to spirituality, to song, and to prayer bears the indelible touch of the music of Lev Tahor.

Lev Tahor took the Jewish world by storm in 2001 with its first album, a collection of acapella renditions of Jewish classics that remains popular to this day. The acapella arrangements featured on albums 1 and 3 have become staples of any yeshiva or camp kumzitz. Their second album produced a distinctive Lev Tahor sound and a number of original songs that further solidified their popularity. By 2006, they had released four albums.

Lev Tahors three core members are Gadi Fuchs, Eli Schwebel, and Ari Cukier. Promotional materials for their new album announce that these lifelong best friends have been singing together for more than 30 years (since they were five-year old buddies in Brooklyns Torah Temimah). As detailed in feature articles through the years, when the friends went to learn in Israel, their zemiros skills made them popular Shabbos guests (I imagine it was like experiencing their song Shabbos in Gilo in real life), and the albums seem to have grown out of that.

The group has been mostly inactive since the release of Lev Tahor 4. Eli Schwebel kept singing in the interim, releasing a solo album in 2014 whose sound was very different from Lev Tahors music, but we havent heard much from the others. Understandably, then, when Lev Tahor announced that theyd be releasing a new album, their legions of fans were filled with excited anticipation.

The album was finally released in late February (in honor of Adar) after the group spent two years putting it together. In advance of the release, Lev Tahor promoted the album heavily on social media, made some rare concert appearances, and revamped their website (levtahor.com), which is back up and running after a few years off the web.

The new Lev Tahor 5 which is available in stores, on mostlymusic.com, and on iTunes (on iTunes, be sure to search for LTV otherwise you wont find it) has been an instant success. The distributor had to order a new batch of physical CDs just days after the release, and the album spent a good bit of time in the #1 spot on the World charts on iTunes.

There is good reason for LTVs success. The new album is exciting, it features a diverse range of songs, and its a good, manageable size (12 tracks running just 46 minutes). Their voices sound as good as ever and its a pleasure to hear them singing together again. In recent interviews, the trio have gushed about how much fun they had making the album, boasting that they didnt have a single fight during those two years. And the fun comes out in the music.

Longtime fans should be forewarned, however, that this is not quite the Lev Tahor theyre used to. The singers are now adults with careers, not the yeshiva guys they were when they first got started; this is readily apparent in the sound on this album, their recent interviews and appearances, their new website, and their social media profiles. Dont expect to hear any covers of old-time Jewish classics or to discover future kumzitz/kaddish staples la Im Eshkachech (from LT2). Some might object to this album for sounding less Jewish than the groups previous work. My personal advice? Give it a few listens and itll grow on you. (Im on about 30 and Im loving it.)

When listening to LTV, it becomes apparent that the group members have vastly broadened their musical horizons in their decade away from recording. There are three particular songs on the album that are unlike anything weve ever heard from Lev Tahor or Eli Schwebel.

One of these is the albums very first song. LTV opens with one of its finest numbers: Halellu, a catchy tune that will have you up out of your seat dancing along. Halellu started as a cover of Holiday Road, a 1983 song by Lindsey Buckingham. Buckinghams song had a Beach Boys sound that is preserved in Halellus chorus, and Eli Schwebel updated it, fusing a unique blend of sounds and styles. First, he adds music (instrumentals and verses) that is reminiscent of Lou Begas Mambo No. 5. Then, we get a bridge provided (according to Lev Tahors social media) by the Sephardic Boys Choir led by Jack Braha that evokes the choral chants used in Disney songs that draw on non-Western music (think the soundtracks of The Lion King, Moana, or Lilo & Stitch).

Simchas Beis Hashoeva features Lipa, and its a classic Lipa party song. Shoovi Lyerushalayim is a nicely arranged tune, half of which is in the style of old American Jewish folk songs and half of which is a beautiful harmonic rendition of the classic tune for one of the best-known kinos in the Tisha Bav liturgy.

A number of Jewish publications have profiled Eli Schwebel in recent years, especially around the time of the release of his solo album, Hearts Mind. Those profiles focused heavily on Elis spiritual journey of self-discovery, a journey that has taken many years and which permeated all of his work on Hearts Mind.

On LTV, Eli is back with his buddies, and just like on the earlier Lev Tahor albums, all three members are essential and contribute significantly to the groups sound. And as always, this album showcases the trio’s remarkable knack for sensing which of the guys would sound best singing which parts of the songs. Notwithstanding all that, however, Eli Schwebel has always stood out somewhat in the groups music.

This is certainly true with respect to his voice. Five Towns Jewish Times editor-publisher Larry Gordon captured the thoughts of many when, in a piece on Eli Schwebel, he referred to Elis voice as something like a magical musical instrument.

By the way Schwebel fans get a special treat on this album, as Elis father Rivie makes a long-overdue appearance. Elis voice is certainly distinctive, but its not unique it is strikingly similar to the voice of his father Rivie, who was a member of Dveykus, one of the foundational modern Jewish music groups. Rivie guest-stars on the vaguely Sephardic Dror Yikra, and his vocals steal the show.

Elis impact on Lev Tahor goes far beyond the sound, however. A major creative force involved in every stage of the music from composition through production, his solo work in Hearts Mind leaves its stamp on LTV in the form of three songs, two of which are actually re-worked versions of songs from his solo album.

The catchy Yagga, which was arguably the best-known song on Hearts Mind (it was originally released as a free single and it has an official music video), receives the Lev Tahor acapella treatment with the kind of typically excellent arrangement that was the hallmark of so much of their earlier work. LTV also features a heartfelt and hopeful remix of Dont Stop Giving that sounds like it belongs on Phil Collinss Tarzan soundtrack and features a synthesized beat that could have come right out of a 90s pop song.

The albums third track, Gam Zu Ltova, is an original tune in the theme and style of Elis journey as expressed in Hearts Mind. Anyone bothered on a religious level by the perception that Yagga shifts the emphasis too far away from Torah study can take comfort in Gam Zu Ltova, whose tune beautifully captures the spirit of the Talmudic expression from which it takes its name (Eli Schwebel and Ari Cukier described this in a recent interview with Nachum Segal). The song traces the experience of someone going through a rough time who utilizes the power of positive thinking to lift him out of his sadness; the songs spirit picks up as this persons mood improves. When we hit the first chorus, which proclaims that this too will be for the best, the slow guitar that conveyed the doldrums in the first verse is replaced by synthesized instruments and a choral background accompaniment. The music in the second verse is more upbeat, and that trend continues through the rest of the song, as the second chorus features choral background singing thats even more exuberant, followed by a pumping beat.

Longtime Lev Tahor enthusiasts need not despair after hearing about all these new and unfamiliar sounds LTV also features four songs in the mold of the groups greatest hits. Fans love discussing which original song is their favorite Aneini vs. Refaeinu is a classic debate and these four are sure to find their way into those conversations. It cant be a coincidence that Gadi Fuchs the most musically conservative of the group, according to Ari and Eli composed all four of these songs: Lecha Dodi, Birchas Hachodesh, Avdecha, and Meheira (Eli Schwebel was a co-composer of Avdecha). Each of these stirring songs epitomizes the classic Lev Tahor sound exemplified by the hits from the second album. I cant wait for Meheira which even features a Shalsheles-style opening to become a hit at weddings. I suspect that many listeners will find that the hauntingly beautiful Avdecha is their favorite track on the album; I know I cant stop listening to it.

Those who particularly enjoyed the English songs on the earlier Lev Tahor albums (which were often covers of old Abie Rottenberg/Journeys songs) might be drawn to Mr. Tanner, a cover of a 1974 Harry Chapin song by that name that Schwebel explicitly re-worked to give it more of the Abie/Journeys feel. Be prepared, though the song is emotionally moving, but its not a dramatic, high-stakes number like Watch Over Me or Deaf Man in the Shteeble and its no more Jewish than Chapins original.

Its great to have Lev Tahor back in our lives giving us some new work to enjoy. This album may be different from what were used to, but its a pleasure to hear their voices again. LTV represents a new step in the trios musical maturation and a worthy addition to their audio library. Newcomers and Lev Tahor lifers alike can look forward to many hours of enjoyment from this wonderful new album. Heres hoping that this time, we wont have to wait eleven more years to hear what the group is up to.

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My Guinea Pig’s Bar Mitzvah: What I Learned – Jewishness … – Forward

It seemed appropriate to plan our guinea pigs bar mitzvah for the Purim weekend.

My daughter is an eager new attendee at Hebrew school and cant wait to be bat mitzvah. Given her age she has a few years to wait, but she decided that, at 25 months, Snickers the guinea pig had reached the age of majority. Also, conveniently, she claims her son is already fluent in guinea-pig Hebrew, so he was able to learn his piece quickly and without the need to ever attend any classes.

We invited guests, ran through the plans for the ceremony and had an anticipatory chuckle. The event was supposed to resemble a brief, jokey version of the coming of age ceremony. What I didnt expect was how similar to a real bar mitzvah the tensions would be.

Decisions had to be made, from catering (we honored Snickers dietary preference by staying vegetarian) to guests (we did stretch to invite both of Snickers friends Rosie the hamster and Marshall the guinea pig but I fear the Canadian cousins are broyges at not being invited).

Preparations took days, during which many conversations took place about obligations of bar mitzvahs, sacredness of certain objects and other rites of passage. One dear guest during the weeks leading up to the simcha wondered to my daughter whether Snickers had been circumcised whether the bar mitzvah was coming between a bris and a huppah and spent a difficult few minutes avoiding having to explain circumcision.

Concrete preparations involved not only making his bar mitzvah suit, tallis and a tallis bag, but constructing a Torah scroll and planning the ceremony. (Please note: no real Hebrew or sacred objects were used in the making of this ceremony.)

The day dawned cold. My wife, who had planned and catered the event with unwavering good humor, woke up with a debilitating virus and had to text emergency helpers from across the city. Rosie sent her regrets, it would be too chilly for her to get across town.

By the afternoon things were getting tense. I would have to leave work earlier than planned for unexpected errands. Snickers might not be feeling well would he be able to do his bit at all? My daughters had to finish their after-school activities and then help with the last few details, no guarantee that we could rely on them. And, to top it off, one of the honored guests along with her father who was supposed to have an aliyah dropped out in the afternoon because of another engagement.

Eventually everyone turned up. My wife struggled out of her sick bed for the ceremony before collapsing back into it halfway through the meal. We solved the perennial problems of seating we both had enough cushions and everyone sat next to friends.

Dan Friedman

Marshalls aliyah at Snickers bar mitzvah.

And then Snickers came out. He behaved delightfully, refrained from toilet the whole time, posed for pictures and did a great job of reading from his scroll. His hutch-mate Marshall performed his aliyah perfectly. Everyone was impressed with Snickers especially the brevity of his speech (and the lack of any other speeches). Crucially, there was plenty to eat.

Job done. Today he is a man. (Or adult guinea pig).

Dan Friedman

Today I Am A Pig: Snickers gives his bar mitzvah speech.

Now we know how to do it, full speed ahead to human bat mitzvahs via, of course, our neph-dogs bark mitzvah.

Dan Friedman is the executive editor of the Forward. Follow him on Twitter @danfriedmanme

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Bar Mitzvah in Israel halted after boy found to be wearing ‘Christian’ prayer shawl – ChristianToday


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A bar mitzvah or ‘coming of age’ ceremony in Israel had to be halted after a rabbi spotted that the 13-year-old boy was wearing a prayer shawl with Christian inscriptions.

A local newspaper, Hashavua, described it as a ‘great embarrassment’ when the inscriptions were discovered on the prayer shawl or tallitduring the service, at the Merom Israel Synagogue in Bat Yam.

A spokesman for the synagogue said the family was not particularly religious, so did not notice the Christian words in the inscription. The synagogue toldIsrael Todaythat had the bar mitzvah gone ahead with the boy wearing this prayer shawl, it would have been deemed illicit.

A replacement shawl was provided and the service continued.

The family wishes its identity kept secret. Many Israeli shops however sell ‘messianic’ prayer shawls.

Last September, there was controversy after photographs emergedof Donald Trump wearinga traditional Jewish prayer shawl inside a church. He was presented with the shawl during a visit to the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, Michigan. He was given the shawl along with a Bible by Detroit pastorBishop Wayne Jackson, who said: ‘This is the Jewish Heritage Study Bible and we have it especially for you, and we have one for your wife. Because when things go down, you can study the word of God. When things seem like it’s almost impossible, you read Mark 9:23, “If one canst believe, all things are possible.”‘

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Bar Mitzvah in Israel halted after boy found to be wearing ‘Christian’ prayer shawl – ChristianToday

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Jewish music to be featured – Oneonta Daily Star

The Foreman Institute of Creative and Performing Arts at Hartwick College will present the ensemble, Big Galut(e), in a two-day residency, Friday and Saturday.

At 3 p.m. Friday, the group will lead a workshop with students from the colleges music department and the community at large. The next night, the band will play in concert at 7:30 p.m. Both events will take place in the Anderson Theatre on the college campus and are free to the public.

Along with its core of music of the Jewish diaspora, the five-member ensemble explores intersections between classical music and klezmer, and Jewish music of the Balkans, Turkey, and the United States. The evening performance at Hartwick will include excerpts of an original work titled Monish, a semi-theatrical setting of a work by the iconic 19th-century Yiddish poet, I.L. Peretz.

Big Galut(e) has performed at venues both locally and nationally since its inception in 2010. The group was selected to represent the United States at the upcoming International Jewish Music Festival competition in Amsterdam, May 4 through 8. Closer to home, Big Galute is scheduled to perform in one of the Glimmerglass Festivals Pavilion Concerts this summer in Cooperstown, according to a media release.

For more information on Big Galut(e), visit http://www.biggalute.com.

For more information on the evenings performance, call the Hartwick College Department of Music at 431-4800.

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Jewish music to be featured – Oneonta Daily Star

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