It’s been a wonderful and intense three Temple B’nai Abraham days. First, Tot Shabbat on Friday night with well over 100 parents and Early School children. Lively – to say the least – fun, and it is always lovely to see the parents all want a moment with Early School director Debbie Ziering; ask a question, seek some advice, whatever. As it has been since its birth so many years ago, the Early School itself remains a strong community as well as an integral part of the Temple.
A little later, our Hey class – formerly Gimel! – led “regular” Friday night worship as a service of remembrance for the Holocaust. Each fifth grader read a brief biography of a Shoah victim, reminding us that while we may often think of “the six million,” they were six million individuals. The children led us enthusiastically in prayer, taught us well, and provided a memorable worship experience not just for adoring parents and grandparents, but for the whole congregation. The service was a reminder how lucky we are to have the creative and energetic Melissa Weiner leading our education efforts.
Saturday morning, Jack Berk became a Bar Mitzvah, a service made especially meaningful by his reading from the Torah on the same Bimah where his mother Lisa (then Hertz) and uncle Jeff also became B’nei Mitzvah. That happens often here, and the multi-generational nature of our congregation never ceases to astound me.
Saturday night, something I’d been awaiting for months: the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at NJPAC! Thanks to Jeri Karpen and Gail Numark for arranging a wonderful evening. About 60 of us gathered at the Robert Treat Hotel for dinner, seeing old friends, making new ones, and having a fun, relaxing time. John Schreiber, President of NJPAC, stopped by, dined with us, and spoke for a few minutes about the mission of NJPAC as not merely a performance venue, but as an engine for arts education throughout the area, especially in needier communities like Newark.
John praised Temple B’nai Abraham for doing its part in that mission; that evening, 50 orchestra musicians, students from Newark’s Arts High School, attended the concert, with tickets we provided. They had a special pre-concert session with an IPO musician and an email I received this morning from the Arts High principal assures me “a truly great evening” was had by all. The combination of providing this musical experience to the kids, and teaching them at least a little bit about Israel, made this an especially meaningful act.
And the IPO itself! Truly one of the world’s great orchestras. First, it may be hokey, but standing up as the IPO plays Hatikva in…New Jersey. I think this is the fifth time I have had this experience and it was just as moving as the first.
I had not heard Conductor Noseda before but I understand why the IPO feels privileged to have him as its principal guest conductor. All French music…Faure, Ravel and Berlioz, not music I normally associate with the IPO but the performance was stunning. We are all familiar with the impact of the recent Russian immigration on Israel but we may not realize that that impact is perhaps most strongly felt on Israel music. A look at the roster of IPO musicians explains: lots of Vladimir, Dmitri, Olga and so on. I am jealous of Tel Aviv residents who have well over 100 chances each year to hear the IPO at its Mann Auditorium home.
It was a late night but I was up early Sunday to drive to Philadelphia to catch a plane to Indianapolis. (The price difference was enormous.) I had lunch with my nephew, a neurosurgery resident at the Indiana University medical school, then drove south to Bloomington and visited with an old friend from Brazil, now a professor o piano at IU. We had fun catching up and it was amusing to see how this kid who grew up on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro has fully and middle-agedly embraced small town Midwestern life!
Finally, dinner with a bunch of “our” TBA kids, all students at IU. Thanks to Jamie Spiro, Alexandra Schwartz, Casey Markman, Cooper Weisman and Sam Brody for agreeing to hang out with me for a while. (I think there is a picture of us on the TBA Facebook page.) On the other hand, while they were happy to see me, I think there were even happier to have dinner at Farm, an outstanding locavore Bloomington restaurant I urge you to visit…the next time you find yourself in central Indiana!
I got caught up on their world; studies, Greek life, friends, social activities, summer jobs. I was happy to see how Jewish life remains a key part of them at school, whether through hanging out at Hillel or Habad once in a while, taking a Jewish Studies course, going on Birthright, or simply with whom they live and hang out. Happily, IU is not just a great university, but one with a great student Jewish community, as these kids have found out.
Too late to head home last night, so now I’m sitting in an airport motel, about to head to IND for my flight to Philadelphia, and then home, and then to the busy week ahead. I hope your Shabbat and your weekend were good, if (hopefully) a bit less hectic than mine. For now, shavua tov, a good week to you and yours.