We are finishing the second year, of junior choir since I have come to TRT. There are currently six 6th grade girls. We sing, laugh, clap, perform, try to be divas, and just have fun together! I work very hard trying to find “cool” music for us to learn, music I think they will like, music that can be used in services, and music they might hear at camp or NFTY. Since I’m not a 6th grade girl, sometimes I miss the mark; the music is too hard or decidedly uncool. Or it works when we sing it but not when we add accompaniment. Getting to sing on the bima with Eric Komar and Sheldon Low is a highlight for the choir, and some of the girls were disappointed when junior choir was not scheduled to sing the night Cablevision recorded Rock Shabbat. So is it cool? This is something I really don’t have an answer to. We have so much fun but others aren’t joining; did I not invite them? Are they too busy? Or is it not cool to sing in the junior choir?
I was thinking back to Rabbi Weber’s sermon a couple of years ago on males participating in Judaism. He grew up with exclusively male teachers, rabbis, and singers. We have only female teachers, and in all likelihood future hires (rabbi, cantor, or educators) will also be women. Who will our male Jewish role models be?
I overheard a comment in the receiving line after the April Rock Shabbat. A woman was speaking to Sheldon Low and said how she felt Judaism would continue because of people like him, a nice young Jewish man bringing inspirational music into the world and inspiring our young people. Sheldon, his mentor Rick Recht, and their project of Jewish Rock Radio have just that goal in mind. They want to connect young Jews to each other and to Judaism in a cool way. They write music that can be used in services, but most of their music is for camp and concerts. And Jewish Rock Radio is just fun music. Some of it is overtly Jewish, in Hebrew or English, some Israeli, some rap, some rock, but it’s all high-quality music (recording quality). It uses Internet radio and downloadable apps as the medium for listening.
Watching people connect to Rock Shabbat is truly inspirational, and one of the things I love the most is that people are connecting across the generations. But I also love that it is a model of Judaism to our students and kids, and it seems to be “cool.” So far we have only had male guest artists; I think this will change next year, but I love that we are showcasing men who are committed to the art of music and committed to Judaism, and I believe are doing it in a way we can call “cool.” I still have no idea what it means to be cool, and I truly hope it is not just age bound because that is rather limiting. I am honored and inspired that we are able to bring inspirational artists and music into TRT, and I hope you will check out Jewish Rock Radio and connect at http://jewishrockradio.com. I hope we will have inspired new students, including boys, to join the junior choir next year. We meet at 4:30 on Thursdays before religious school. Thanks to our guests for inspiring, and thanks to our junior choir for being you and keeping me searching for the next cool thing!