When I was a young professional living in Los Angeles, I joined an a cappella group called Shir Ba’ir, meaning “song of the city.” I rose through the ranks and eventually became the president of the group’s board as well as the assistant musical director. It was some of the most fun I had in my life, and I have so many memories of re-hearsing and performing with the group. Once, we did a concert in a coffee shop on Halloween and decided to wear various costume pieces over our usual all-black uniform. There is a video somewhere of me on the internet singing “Y’rushalayim Shel Zahav” while wearing devil ears and a tale. Another time, we performed a Chanukah concert for seniors living in the LA Jewish Home, and one of the pieces was sang was Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song.” I became a better musician during my time performing with Shir Ba’ir. It was there that I first dabbled in conducting and arranging. Some of the friendships I made have lasted me to this day.
I am delighted that the Music Committee will be bringing the joys of a cappella singing to Temple Beth Shalom. On Tuesday, January 10 at 6:30 PM, we will be joined by Tizmoret, a Jewish a cappella group based out of Queens College. While many of the members attend Queens College, the group attracts the best of the best and pulls its mem-bers from throughout the New York area. Their repertoire is diverse; they sing Israeli mu-sic, liturgical music, American pop music, and even oldies! I am so excited to hear them perform, and I wanted to invite you all to join me in welcoming them. If you are interested in learning more about Tizmoret, you can read about them on their website, https://www.tizmoret.com/. You can also listen to their music by visiting their YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/TizmoretTube.
In order to offset the cost of bringing Tizmoret to TBS and raise money for the Ike and Alezah Eisenstein music fund, we will be charging $18 for tickets to the concert. We are also seeking sponsors at the following levels: $36, $72, $180, $360, and $500. Those at the $36, $72, and $180 levels will each receive two tickets to the concert with their spon-sorships. Those at the $360 and $500 levels will each receive four tickets to the concert with their sponsorships. Sponsors will receive recognition on all concert materials. To be-come a sponsor, please contact Trudie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, we are so excited that the members of Tizmoret will be traveling here all the way from New York, but they need somewhere to stay. We are seeking hosts for the members of the group. If you are able to host one or more members of Tizmoret, please contact me at email@example.com.
I can’t wait to share my love of a cappella with you all. See you at the concert!
One morning as we recited the text of Elu D’varim, I realized that the “Dear Hank Letter” embodied an important Jewish value and Jewish act. In this text, we say that “ulvayat hamet” – escorting the dead- is one of the ten things we do that makes an impact in This World but also accrue merit in the World to Come. It is our responsibility to make sure that everyone who dies, has a graceful, dignified burial. We often say that is an act of caring that cannot be repaid. Like the Dear Hank Letter, the person who has died has no way of saying thank you.
The connection between the Dear Hank Letter and ulvayat hamet/escorting the dead took on greater depth and meaning in the wake of learning of another death. For a number of years I have retold a story of Tee Dixon that I heard on The Moth Storytelling show. In her story, Tee Dixon is working as an Emergency Room Trauma doctor. A grievously injured teenager comes in and her survival is far from certain. Tee cares for her through many tense days until the girl is able to leave the ICU. It is a story of giving and not knowing or even being aware of the depth of the gift. Tee was not expecting thanks; she was just giving her life and blessing in the face of death and curse. Incredibly she crossed paths with the teen a year later. She was unsure how the teen knew her, the teen had been unconscious the whole time. “You kept talking to me and calling me by name. You were so gentle and kind. Of course, I remember your voice.” It’s the opposite of the Dear Hank Letter. Tee heard thank you from the teen. Over the years, I have shared it as a reminder of the impact of our voice and how we speak with people.
This is not the end of the story. Just a few months ago, I caught a replay of the story and my heart broke. The producers shared that since the story’s release, the storyteller, Tee Dixon had died. While I have been using the story to teach one set of values, suddenly I found it now embodied a powerful dynamic of being thankful but not being able to say thank you. Now, when I tell the story, I am thinking of it as a “Dear Hank Letter”. Unlike the teen in the story, I can’t even meet Tee Dixon by chance. I really have no way to say thank you for the gift of that story beyond telling it and living it out as I cross paths with people in the course of life. As an act of Ulvayat haMet, I feel an extra push, to show that I have taken her story to heart and work to bring it into the world.
This is not really a Thanksgiving story. Yet, it is my hope and prayer that it energizes your observance of this special American holiday. As you consider this dynamic of giving and receiving, of blessing and appreciation, I hope you will not just get stuck in food and gathering and parades and sports, and move beyond pshat/surface activities of Thanksgiving. Let us build on our words of thanks with actions of appreciation honoring the love and light we experience by expanding it into our world.