As we look ahead to our Celebration of Shabbat through Stories weekend – January 27-29 – we continue with our series of observations from our clergy and educators on the importance and value of Jewish learning in our synagogue, in our schools and in our community.
We are pleased to share today these reflections from Cantor Lorna Wallach on “Why Jewish Learning is Important to Me.”
I am very excited about welcoming Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie to our congregation for an entire weekend at the end of January. From the professional and personal perspective of someone who has dedicated my life’s work to trying to inspire others, through teaching and by example, to deepen their connection to and knowledge of Judaism, it feels particularly validating that our CBI community is making a weekend “celebration of Shabbat and lifelong learning” our major event of the year, and that CBI’s lay leadership makes learning across all ages and generations a top priority.
Of my many responsibilities as a Cantor, my role as one of the educators in our community is especially gratifying. Whether I am teaching Torah or Haftarah trope (cantillation) to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah student or to an adult who never had the opportunity to learn this or another synagogue skill, or reading a story to our preschoolers and finding a way to relate it to the weekly Torah portion or to a Jewish holiday on a level that they can understand, or analyzing with our Adult Choir how a particular musical setting brings new meaning to the words and themes of a prayer, I see over and over again that acquiring knowledge is enlightening and empowering.
The theme of our weekend of celebrating lifelong learning and Shabbat is “stories.” There is a story I read about a man named Jerry Olpert, a member of the Yucatan Indian tribe in Mexico, who has the distinguished position among his people as the designated “Songkeeper.” Theirs is an oral tradition, and the tribal memory is passed to each generation in the form of stories set to song. It is his sacred task to perform, impart and preserve these ancient “songs” while at the same time, figuring out how to make them accessible and relevant to the youth of the tribe.
As a Cantor, I, too, am a “Songkeeper” so to speak, of our Jewish heritage and our sacred music and texts. It is my goal that through education, and supporting and encouraging participation in our services, I can help everyone to become a “Songkeeper” of our beautiful Jewish musical heritage and of our sacred stories.