Jewish Federations can be the engines of change.
Sarah Barnett

songleader boot camp

Every Jewish professional needs to periodically reconnect and recharge Jewishly.  This past February 15-17, along with Rodef Sholom Temple Jane Fairman Director of Congregational Learning, Tess Goldblatt, and song leading assistant Troy Breslow, I had the unique treat of attending the “Song Leader Boot Camp” in St. Louis MO, a trip made possible by the RST Drucker Music Fund.  For two days we joined fellow educators and Jewish song leaders including, rabbis, cantors, camp song leaders, PJ Library professionals, JCC professionals and volunteers like myself (I lead Sunday morning prayers for religious school students). Under the tutelage of Jewish rock phenome Rick Recht and his able staff we learned new skills, techniques, and repertoire to enhance our roles.  Participants were from all corners of North America and from all main streams of Jewish life.  Rick inspired us with his unique STAR brand of performance methodology and presentation.  His personal workshops were paired alongside varied sessions ranging from an introduction to Jewish Mindfulness, Jewish songwriting, prayer leadership, head to toe body language practice for song leaders and storytellers, and so much more.  Three rabbis in residence delivered morning minyan divrei Torah, inspired us, and delivered talks on leadership and humbleness in evening sessions. . But for all three of us the highlight of each day was the Morning Prayer sessions led by Rick Recht and a cadre of Jewish music professionals. An effective integration of traditional prayer liturgy was organically intertwined with modern tunes set to ancient words.  The carefully choreographed  presentation of core morning prayers enjoyed by over 200 trained, willing voices, familiar enough with the liturgy and melodies to pull off a bountifully melodious experience, was an spiritual high we will probably never have  again unless we return to SLBC.  The only challenge was deciding whether to join in or just listen and absorb the beautiful melodies.

So back to why a Jewish Federation matters. We enjoyed this conference in St. Louis Missouri as guests of the Jewish Community Center which graciously opened its doors, but more importantly the Jewish Federation of St. Louis was a sponsor of this event. Donors in St. Louis, just like donors here, were happy to contribute to a communal pot that wisely allocates funds for Jewish programs, education, and social services including Song Leader Boot Camp.  I and my colleagues were happy beneficiaries of the St. Louis Federation’s generosity and like our fellow participants will bring important skills and knowledge back to our community.  In the same way, our Federation continues to look for ways to encourage Jewish growth, knowledge and community connections. Our increasing support for CNU Hillel and our local teen BBYO groups are perfect examples. Like us in St. Louis, most of the CNU students that we will touch are not from here nor will they remain with us after graduation. Nonetheless, we take our obligation seriously to help these young adults connect Jewishly, and grow Jewishly no matter where their post-graduation path takes them.  The anonymous generosity of Missouri donors touched my life. In the same way, your contribution to the 2015 Annual Campaign will touch many lives you never know.  It’s never too late to give.