Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged Recap

This past Saturday evening, Jews from all over the city visited Congregation Beth Sholom to mark our entrance into the final days of preparation for the Yamim Noraim ("the Days of Awe"). A joint production of Beth Sholom, The Kitchen, Kehillah San Francisco, and Congregation Anshey Sfard, Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged made for a special night (and early morning!) – the spirited service didn't end until almost 2 a.m.!

The centerpiece of Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged was a communal singalong featuring brothers Yehuda and Nahman Solomon. (Yehuda is the frontman of the Israeli-American folk-rock band, Moshav, as well as founder of Los Angeles' Happy Minyan.) Yehuda and Nahman were joined by prayer leaders and hazzanim from all of the participating communities – together, they led the crowd in giving voice to Selichot, our tradition’s beautiful and penitential piyyutim (liturgical poems). According to Ashkenazi tradition, the recitation of Selichot begins after midnight on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah and, although our service didn't wind down until the wee hours, there was no shortage of energy and ruach in the Beth Sholom Sanctuary! Even at the end of the service, attendees danced, stomped, and swayed with the music and piyyut, awakening to the urgency of this moment and our need for teshuvah.

Before the main service began, attendees gathered for a lovely Havdalah ceremony and a community Selichot beit midrash co-led by Rabbi Aubrey Glazer and Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan. The study session compared our traditional High Holy Days liturgy and selected lyrics of recently departed songwriter, Leonard Cohen (z"l). The takeaway from the session was the value of wrestling with the difficult personal work of teshuvah and cultivating a relationship with the divine (a struggle reflected in Cohen's poetry and lyrics).

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, the need for a commitment to teshuvah becomes increasingly urgent, but it is likewise important to balance the moments of reckoning with moments of joy. Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged provided both.

Thanks to the rabbis, performers, and prayer leaders who made the evening so moving and fun. Thanks, too, to all of the friendly folks from The Kitchen, Kehillah San Francisco, and Congregation Anshey Sfard who participated, making a memorable evening that much better. Todah rabbah, and l'shanah tovah u'metuka (for a good and sweet year)!

A selection of photographs and videos are included below. Please visit our Facebook page for more.

Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged

Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged
Sing in the "Season of Awe"!

Congregation Beth Sholom,
The Kitchen, Kehillah San Francisco, and Congregation Anshey Sfard
co-present a rollicking musical exploration of the traditional Selichot liturgy.


September 16, 2017
9 – 10 p.m.,
Special "Heart Opening" Havdalah
   w/ Moshav (for young adults)
10 – 11:30 p.m.,
Broken Prayer & Its Repair: A Communal Selichot
   Beit Midrash
On The Prayerful Songbook of
   Leonard Cohen
11:30 p.m. – 1 a.m.,
Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged

At 9 p.m., we invite young Jewish singles, couples, and friends to join us for scotch and a rousing musical Havdalah with Yehuda Solomon (frontman of the popular Isareli-American band, Moshav), Nahman Solomon, and our community leaders.

At 10 p.m., all ages are invited to join us for Broken Prayer & Its Repair, a deep dive into the songwriting of the late, great Leonard Cohen (z"l) and its Selichot significance.

Then, at 11:30 p.m., we’ll open our hearts, dance, and prepare for the work of redeeming our world in 5778! After the incredible success of last year's Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged, we're super psyched to again raise our voices together. Yehuda, Nahman, Hazzan Avyatar Alfassi, Rabbi Glazer, and other friends will lead us in the joyous communal sing-along experience, one that features appearances by many special guests – musicians, singers, and rabbis – it’s a neo-Carlebach kumzitz meets The Last Waltz mash-up! Singing and moving together with communal leaders and singers from CBS, Kehillah San Francisco, The Kitchen, and Congregation Anshey Sfard, we’ll rediscover the power of the Selichot, our tradition’s beautiful and meaningful penitential piyyut (Jewish liturgical poems).

All parts of this special evening are free, but pre-registration is required. Please register below!

The Financial Four -- October 11, 2016

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our Interim Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel.

*****

Donation_CBSYellowsorcerorsapprentice Dear Friends,

It would be hard for me to believe that we are where we are today but for the fact that I spent the last six weeks bearing witness to the Herculean efforts of your Board, your President, and your synagogue staff. They've created magic. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they have breathed new life into the unexpected, masterfully coordinated a concerted effort to achieve the improbable, and, of course, prepared themselves for the requisite clean-up to come (a heads up that your statements may NOT be perfect for another month or so!). You should be proud of what we have accomplished together.

It would be selfish not to share the good news, so (in order of personally-perceived awesomeness):

1. 23 new members. – Folks, what else is there to say? In a time when every synagogue is losing members, our community has responded to our year-long campaign with a resounding," Yes! We love the programming and the feeling of belonging at Beth Sholom — it meets a spiritual need for us." There are so many people to thank for this — the CBS Family Preschool directors, our Achshav Yisrael Committee, all the Thinking Matters volunteer teachers, Christopher Reiger, and of course, our beloved Rabbi — who greets every idea with "I have a friend/contact who..." Kol Hakavod to all.

2. $748,000 in membership dues (and counting). – You may have received your call from the Board in the last four weeks. Or you may have renewed your membership in March, without so much as a whispered reminder. No matter how or when you renewed, THANK YOU for allowing us to make 102% of our financial membership goals! As Sally Field and more recently, my husband have said, "They like [it]...they really like [it]!" It is an honor to be a part of this synagogue with you. (Special thanks to Steven Dinkelspiel and Beth Jones – nothing works unless there is some plan to the practice.)

3. 10% over projected building contributions. – When we built this incredible place, we knew it was going to take some serious dough to keep it running. And our membership has stepped up to make sure it does. For those of you who question or wonder about the efficacy of the building in today’s virtual world, all you need to do is come this month to see an Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat or listen to attendees of our Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged services kvell about (be proud of) how we were able to co-create programming with and host the Mission Minyan and The Kitchen. In order to congregate, a congregation needs space.

4. Speaking of...how about a grant to open a Kosher/Halal Food Truck? – Okay, I get it, it's not quite what you were expecting, but CBS is one of four finalists for an Earned Income grant from the Jewish Federation to use our already fabulous kitchen and chef to make Jewish food and culture more portable. Not since the exodus from Spain 500 years ago has there been this much excitement about Jews on the move! Thanks to Kim Hegg, Jane Sykes, Eric Silverman, and the coolest Federation ever for going on this vision quest with us. We’ll keep you posted.

Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged Recap

facebook_yehudasolomonduvidswirsky_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016Almost two hundred people visited the CBS campus this past Saturday evening to mark our entrance into the final days of preparation for the Yamim Noraim ("the Days of Awe"). A joint production of CBS, the Mission Minyan, and The Kitchen, Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged made for a special night (and early morning!) – deeply affecting, joyous, and fun.

The centerpiece of the night was a communal singalong featuring Yehuda Solomon and Duvid Swirsky of the Israeli-American folk-rock band, Moshav. Yehuda and Duvid were joined by prayer leaders and hazzanim from CBS, the Mission Minyan, and the Kitchen – together, they led the crowd in giving voice to Selichot, our tradition’s beautiful and penitential piyyutim (liturgical poems). According to Ashkenazi tradition, the recitation of Selichot begins after midnight on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah (or the Sunday prior, if Rosh Hashanah falls on a Monday or Tuesday, as it does this year) and, although our service didn't wind down until 2 a.m., there was no shortage of energy and ruach in the CBS Sanctuary! Attendees danced, stomped, and swayed with the music and singing, awakening to the urgency of this moment and our need for teshuvah.

Speaking of teshuvah and the related seasonal demand for chesbon hanefesh (a rigorous "accounting of the soul"), Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan shared some moving words during the film panel that occurred earlier in the evening. Following a screening of Fire On The Water, a short film dealing with the Akedah (the binding of Isaac) that Rabbi Aubrey Glazer made during his days as a student filmmaker, Rabbi Wolf-Prusan spoke earnestly of his anxiety about the lack of communal sacrifice experienced by Jewish Americans in the last 50+ years. What loss has our society felt, he asked, as we wage an ongoing war in Afghanistan? Too many families lose their sons and daughters, of course, and our federal coffers are steadily drained, but the majority of Americans are insulated from the war – it remains a background abstraction, and there is little to no sense of communal commitment, contribution, or sacrifice. Even during the Vietnam era, Rabbi Wolf-Prusan argued, despite the anti-war movement and the greater public awareness of the body count (on both sides of the conflict), our culture experienced the 1960s and early 1970s as a period of economic growth and general prosperity. He contrasted this with the American experience during World War II, when all citizens were required to ration foods, fuel, and many consumer goods. We haven't experienced anything like that since the 1940s. "When will the bill come due?," he asked the audience.

Rabbi Dorothy Richman responded to Rabbi Wolf-Prusan and quoted the 20th century sage, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: "Some are guilty, but all are responsible." With so much racial strife, ongoing overseas wars, ugly partisanship, and reactionary politics, she said Rabbi Wolf-Prusan's anxieties about our lack of sacrifice hit her hard. Doubtless, many people in the room were similarly stirred.

This sort of earnest, challenging soul-searching is what the High Holy Days are all about. Observant Jews devote the entire Hebrew month of Elul – which began on September 4 this year – to the spiritual heavy lifting of teshuvah. And what exactly is teshuvah? Depending on which Jew you ask, you'll get different answers. Most resources translate teshuvah as "repentance," but many rabbis scorn this translation, and instead frame teshuvah (which literally translates as "return") as the work of returning to relationship with God. Given contemporary Jews' varied conceptions of deity, that's too vague a formulation for many. However you translate or characterize it, though, teshuvah is about working to develop and improve our character – and it's meant to be hard.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, the need for a commitment to teshuvah becomes increasingly urgent, but it is likewise important to balance the moments of reckoning with moments of joy. Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged provided both.

Thanks to all of the panelists, performers, and prayer leaders who made the evening so moving and fun. Thanks, too, to all of the friendly folks from the Mission Minyan and The Kitchen who trekked out – in some cases, carpooling (kol hakavod!) – to the Richmond to make this memorable evening that much better. Todah rabbah, and l'shanah tovah u'metuka (for a good and sweet year)!

A selection of photographs snapped during the event are included below.

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Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged

HardlyStrictlySelichotUnplugged_PosterHardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged
A Communal Soul-singing Experience

Congregation Beth Sholom, the Mission Minyan, and the Kitchen co-present a communal Selichot experience like none other.

September 24, 2016
9 – 11 p.m.,
Fire on the Water short film screening & forum
11 – 11:30 p.m.,
Coffee, dessert, & schmooze
11:30 p.m. – 1:30 a.m.,
Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged

At 9 p.m., following a musical Havdalah with Yehuda Solomon and Duvid Swirsky of the Israeli-American folk-rock band, Moshav, we will stretch our spiritual and intellectual muscles with a screening of Rabbi Aubrey Glazer's short film, Fire on the Water. The 30-minute film uses a father-son fly fishing trip to grapple with divergent notions of sibling rivalry, parental love, trust, reconciliation, and sacrifice. This special screening will be followed by a panel discussion exploring the themes of the film as they relate to the spiritual journey of the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe – featuring many of our CBS High Holy Days spiritual leaders, including cantorial soloist Aviva Chernick, filmmaker Jonathan Crosby, and Rabbis Aubrey Glazer, Peretz Wolf-Prusan, Dorothy Richman.

Then, at 11:30 p.m., we’ll put those limber muscles to work as we usher in “the season of awe” with Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged. Yehuda and Duvid will lead us in a joyous communal sing-along experience that features appearances by many special guests – musicians, singers, and rabbis – it’s a neo-Carlebach kumzitz meets The Last Waltz mash-up! Singing and moving together with communal leaders and singers from CBS, the Mission Minyan, and the Kitchen, we’ll rediscover the power of the Selichot, our tradition’s beautiful and meaningful penitential piyyut (Jewish liturgical poems).

Both parts of this special evening are free, but pre-registration is required.
Please click through to register.