By Caroline Kessler
So, it’s been a little over a week since I’ve returned from the gathering of the tribe that I previously mentioned: Jewlicious Festival 6.0. I’ve already written a tiny bit about it, mostly scribbled notes to myself and a blog post on New Voices about labels. (Other people are already chatting it up on the Internets, like here.) I’ll write a longer article for New Voices within the week. But I wanted to talk about one thing at more length here: music.
It was everywhere this past weekend. The minute we walked into the gorgeous, sprawling JCC of Long Beach, there was music coming from a loudspeaker (something catchy and Israeli, although I’m not sure what it was). At the Reform service I attended that night, there were two songleaders who encouraged us to get on our feet (we did) and clap along (again, we did). That night at dinner, our pale Pittsburgh group sat near some more religious Jews (read, more loud). We joined them in several songs and then started some of our own.
There were about 450 people at Shabbat dinner that night–nearly everyone joined in for Shalom Aleichem. At the head of our table was the infamous Matisyahu. As we were breaking and passing the challah, our table ran out. Our friend Marc yelled, “Hey Matis! Throw me a piece of challah!”
Miraculously, he did. There was an exuberance in the air that tonight, and I think a lot of it came from using our voices at a volume that we don’t normally practice. There were so many different kinds/types/labels of Jew there–and to see everyone raise their voices in the same song was something bordered on extraordinary. The next morning, (Saturday), there was a reggae-inspired Reform service. I missed it to attend Marcus Freed’s Shabbat Strength sequence–and there was music even in the heavy breath of everyone in the small exercise room, the stomping of our feet on the floor when Marcus said, “Just let your body play,” and there was music in our chanting of ‘shalom.’
Over a week later, I still have something that my friend Bri taught me on the trip: kol ha’olam kulo, gesher tzar m’od, v’ha ikar lo l’fached klal, which translates to ‘the entire world is a narrow bridge, but the main thing is not to fear.’ I love the translation, but what I love even more is singing the song all the way to John Wayne Airport, all the way back to Pittsburgh.
Caroline Kessler, hailing from the not-so-charmed city of Baltimore, is an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University.