Temple Jeremiah

 

Shabbat Nitzavim

Dear friends,

Everyone counts. No matter who your family is, or whether or not you marry into the Israelite tribe. You are part of us. This is what we read this week in our Torah portion Nitzavim. Moses was trying to drive home the fact that anyone who stood with him at Sinai was an Israelite. There was no such thing as patrilineal descent. Everyone will inherit Israel and, most importantly, will be equally loved and recognized by God.

Moses also warns of extremely difficult times should the Israelites decide to abandon God’s law mitzvot (commandments, good deeds). However, Moses also states God’s unconditional love by saying that even if they forsake the commandments, God will still gather them and their loved ones to Israel, and in the end, they will have redemption. Moses goes on to say that these mitzvot are not beyond our reach, rather, that they are right there for us, in our mouths, hearts, and souls. In modern day terms, to me, Moses is saying that living a Jewish life is a gift from God. And whether or not we choose to accept that gift, we will still be redeemed and that, eventually, we will all come to walk with God. Perhaps most importantly, that God will love us, no matter what we choose.

When each child in a family is born, they can sign up to have Jewish books from PJ Library sent to their homes totally free of charge. They usually come once a month. This summer, there was a huge bonus for adults too. My sweet husband Ross thought I would enjoy a book by Abigail Pogrebin entitled My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew. Pogrebin was formerly a broadcast producer for notable TV hosts including Charlie Rose and Mike Wallace at 60 Minutes. She has been published in many magazines and newspapers including New York Magazine, and is the current President of Central Synagogue in New York City. One particular book she wrote which had a big impact on me personally was Stars of David, a memoir of interviews about the Jewish lives and customs of famous Jewish people in the US, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Fran Drescher, and Gwyneth Paltrow. In 2013 she collaborated with composer Tom Kitt to turn the book into a musical review. I have performed the song “As If I Weren’t There,” sung by the Ruth Bader Ginsburg character, describing the profound impact that her mother had on Ruth’s Judaism and life, particularly when her father silenced her from saying Kaddish for her mother when she died the day before Ruth’s high school graduation.

In My Jewish Year, Pogrebin describes how she was Jewish “in the way that The Olive Garden is an Italian Restaurant.” When her son was born, she writes that she scheduled his bris because “that’s what Jews do.” But during the ceremony something deep inside her made her want to truly understand why: did this bris mark the start of her Jewish family, or was she just checking the box? Pogrebin’s story gives us a living example of Nitzavim: the mitzvah of having a bris was not beyond her reach—it was something she knew she needed to do deep down in her heart, mind, and soul (and in what some of us like to call her “kishkes”). She writes about her childrens’ bar and bat mitzvah, and the impact it had on her, seeing her children being elevated and celebrated by their Judaism in this magnificent way. She describes Judaism in this way: “This is about you, and also beyond you. And none of this lasts without you.”

I believe that Nitzavim punctuates Pogrebin’s feelings in a very profound way. I also think that Moses is outlining the evolution of Judaism in our world today when he tells the Israelites “You will return to God’s law, and God will gather you into the land that you have possessed.” Just like Abigail Pogrebin says in her book that Judaism is a gift, and “a train that circles back to pick you up.” It’s my prayer that all of us will come to realize that we do not have to get on the train which require us to adhere strictly to Jewish laws of being kosher, keeping Shabbat in a certain way, or having a Jewish mother. We can get on the liberal Jewish train, the train of ever-evolving Judaism and peoplehood, and find what has the greatest meaning for us.

Jewish music is another train that can come and pick you up, allowing you to tap into and experience our holidays and customs in a fun and meaningful way. Please download these Rosh HaShanah songs and sing them with your children, in the car, with your families, and use them to help you find meaning in our holidays:

Apples and Honey for Rosh HaShanah

Shofar Blast

At Temple Jeremiah, I would love to invite you to participate in and experience music as a community in very different ways. If you have a child in grades 2-6, come join us every Sunday from 10:45-11:15 a.m. for Junior Choir! We will sing all kinds of music for special Shabbat services and for mitzvah programs. PLUS, we will have fun games, time together, and treats! Our first rehearsal will be on Sunday, Sept. 23!!

I’d also love to invite anyone 7th grade through college to sing in our Temple Jeremiah A capella choir! You can learn how to make those cool percussive sounds with your voice, sing tight harmonies, and have fun together. Our first rehearsal will be on Sunday Sept. 23 from 1:00-1:30 p.m.

Our Adult Choir is a beautiful group of singers of all levels of ability. Beginning Wed. Oct. 3, we will rehearse alternating Wednesday and Tuesday nights. Beginning in November, we will be singing on the Second Shabbat of each month.

Please note: No prior musical or singing experience or knowledge necessary to join any of these choirs. Even if you think you cannot sing, or don’t have a voice, come! I will help you find your voice. And lending your spirit is equally as important as singing. So even if there is a slight inkling in your soul, come!

We are also looking for players, particularly if you play a woodwind or brass instrument, to join our Intergenerational Shabbat Band. We will be playing once a month for H(OUR) Shabbat. I am quickly learning that Temple Jeremiah is chock full of musical talent, with folks who actually play in bands that perform throughout Chicagoland. If you are a teen who plays something, come learn from these great players! And they will learn from you too!

Ross, Abigail, Zev, and I wish you L’Shanah Tovah. I am so eager and excited to get to know every single one of you in our Jeremiah family. I continue each day to be grateful to be a part of you.

Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman

About Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman

Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman is thrilled to be the cantor at Temple Jeremiah. She moved to the area from the New York/New Jersey area in 2015 after beginning her tenure at Beth Emet in July of 2015, just after receiving Cantorial Ordination from The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music of the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion. Previously, she served as cantor at Beth Emet the Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL where, in addition to the many life cycles and other duties of the cantor, she directed the Adult Choir, created and directed a Teen A Capella Choir, Jr. Choir, and Intergenerational Band. Cantor Friedman strives to help all members of the community find their Jewish voice and she regularly invites anyone who is interested to sing with her during Shabbat and High Holy Days services. Cantor Friedman has a wide range of musical styles, and feels at home in almost every style of Jewish music, such as playing her guitar in a small setting where everyone is participating with her, or singing a piece of Chazzanut or liturgical music for a large congregation. Her belief is that nearly all Jewish music has its place in our synagogue, and when done prayerfully and with great intention, can inspire us to hear God’s voice, and can often help us to find prayer within our souls that words alone cannot arouse. Cantor Friedman holds degrees of Bachelor of Music from Illinois State University, Master of Music from Arizona State University, and Master of Sacred Music from the Hebrew Union College. During her time as a student she served as Cantorial Intern at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, NJ. There, she founded and directed their 40 member Junior Choir, Keshet, and also served as the cantor of the Barrie H. Greene Early Childhood Center. During her tenure at Jeshurun, she created and implemented the synagogue’s first ever Yom Kippur Family Service for which over 600 families were in attendance. It has since been a staple of their High Holy Days services. Cantor Friedman is a regular soloist with the Kol Zimrah Community Choir right here on the North Shore. She is an active member of the American Conference of Cantors and was asked to be on the leadership committee for the 2018 convention as Co-Chair for all of the Tefilot (Prayer Services) for the convention. She is an active member of the Reform Cantors Chicago, and is frequently invited to collaborate in Cantorial Concerts with colleagues throughout both Chicagoland and all over the U.S at places such as Temple Emanu-El Dallas, Temple Judea in Palm Beach Gardens, and Anshe Emet Synagogue with Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi. One of Cantor Friedman’s biggest passions is helping to sustain and foster the Reform Movement in Israel. From 2010-2011 Susie lived in Israel for the first year of school and volunteered at Congregation Ohel Avraham, part of the Leo Baeck Center in Haifa, where she served as volunteer cantor. She formed strong relationships with Rabbi Gabby Dagan, and the congregants who quickly became her Israeli family, and she decided to become a bat mitzvah with them. Six months later, Susie co-officiated a b’not mitzvah for seven Israeli women, all of whom celebrated with Susie at her ceremony and grew up never knowing that a bat mitzvah existed—only bar mitzvah. That year, Susie also conceived, directed, accompanied, and performed in Broadway on the Carmel, a concert to raise money for families who could not afford to have b’nai mitzvah for their children. While in Israel, she was nominated by her piers and received the Rabbi Jason Huebsch Memorial Prize for all of her work with Ohel Avraham. Prior to becoming a cantor, Susie appeared in the Broadway National Tour of CATS playing the roles of Jennyanydots and Grizabella. She also performed in regional opera, theater, concert, and as a pianist/singer/entertainer in clubs throughout NYC, hosting her own weekly open mic show at The Duplex. She has had the great fortune to perform with Betty Buckley, George S. Irving, and Alberto Mizrahi, and is frequently sought out to sing in various cantorial concerts throughout the U.S. She is a proud member of the American Conference of Cantors, the Reform Cantors of Chicago, and Actors Equity Association. Her love of children and strong desire to inspire b’nai mitzvah students to remain engaged in Jewish life inspired her to be a cantor. It is Susie’s goal that every student who walks through the doors of the synagogue will grow up to become vibrant, participating members of congregations. She is married to the love of her life, Ross Friedman. Her absolute greatest achievements are their daughter, Abigail Hannah Friedman, who was born on May 6, 2013, and their son, Zev Noah Friedman, who was born on Nov. 5, 2014. They are both living examples of her answered prayers.

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