I went to Limmud NY 2011 and wrote a lot of posts about it. Here’s a guide to them.
Limmud NY was enriched for me this year by the presence of “Musical Mincha-Maariv,” led by Jewschooler, Mah Rabu blogger and former Kol Zimrah/current Segulah leader BZ. Lest anyone think that this service review is nice because I know and like BZ, let me assure that I just really liked the service
Normally, at Limmud NY, there is a good effort made to provide a diverse set of service options for Shabbat evening and morning. After that, beginning with Shabbat Mincha and continuing through the end of the conference, we provide only a “Mechitza service led by men” and a “Traditional-Egalitarian” service option for each prayer time.
BZ, apparently having jumped on the bandwagon too late in the game to offer a Kol Zimrah-style service on Friday night ended up leading a similar Mincha-Maariv in the late afternoon-early evening on Sunday. It was great, not just as a service, but as a time. By that point in the conference, my brain always feels stretched pretty thing and I start feeling overwhelmed. So it was just the right time for a nice, long service with some guitar music.
As with all of my favorite services, there was some chaos. At first, we couldn’t track down siddurim, but I eventually located the bin of siddurim we needed and brought it up to the room. We were mostly using Gates of Prayer (Grey/Gender edition), but I used Koren Talpiot and also spotted one Siddur Eit Ratzon, one Koren Sacks, one RCA ArtScroll, one random little Orthodox siddur and two Birnbaums. Given the size of the crowd, that leaves about seven or eight GOGs in use.
Further chaos came from the fact that the service was moved twice, the second time right before it was set to begin. The place we ended up was in Ballroom C, which is a part of the ballroom at the hotel that can be partitioned off with a movable wall. Unfortunately, it was not partitioned off for much of the service so a lot of racket from hotel staff setting up dinner spilled over.
Rob Scheinberg, a Conservative Rabbi was there. When offered something other than GOG, he said, “When else do I get to use Gates of Prayer?” Caryn Roman, a former boss of mine at Kutz, and I looked at each other and said, “Get to?”
We began with a chant to of the first line of Ashrei,
the Shefa Gold version I think. This went on for a while and set a nice mood. Then we read the rest of Ashrei silently to ourselves. We did the last line of Ashrei to a tune I’m not familiar with, but my notes say it’s a Debbie Friedman tune. I can’t recall if BZ said it was or if I was speculating. Oh well. the handout said it was another Debbie tune.
I’m pretty sure we did Chatzi Kaddish to “Lord Prepare Me.” Which I still can’t figure out if I object to. I think I only do if we use the original words. More on why one might object to such a thing here. One thing that I love about BZ’s style is that every time I attend a service he’s leading, he uses something creative for the various Kaddishes (not Yatom, though).
In the repetition of the Amidah, BZ was saying Retzeih and I was jarred to hear him say “lechol korav etc,” a GO
GP original (or is it from the Union Prayer Book?) that I haven’t heard in a long time. It brought me back down to Earth and I realized that everyone around me was using GOG. It’s a good example of the fact that as much as I care about a good siddur, a good leader with a good plan can overcome a lackluster siddur.
The repetition of the Amidah proceeded at breakneck Ashekenazi nusach pace, but that ended abruptly when we hit Shalom Rav, which BZ slowed down to a Debbie Friedman tune for. (OK, so the tune isn’t actually by Friedman. More on that in the comments.) The combo was jarring, but good. Also, the pace of the repetition reminded me of the luxurious pace that we had proceeded at so far, odd for Mincha, but not bad.
To begin Maariv, BZ did Vehu Rachum to a tune that I am only familiar with for Barchi Nafshi from Chavurat Lamdeinu and Hadar. He continued this tune into Barchu. This mostly worked, but as usual, I find anything other than the standard Barchu clumsy because where call ends response begins starts to become musically unclear. It is the only misstep of any size I noticed in the service.
Maariv Aravim was ordinary, Ahavat Olam to Friedman’s tune.
We did Ve’ahavta to the Friedman tune, which I’m used to hearing with English words only. BZ, however, did it all in Hebrew, which made things interesting.
I don’t think the tune for Mi Chamocha wasn’t Friedman. Rather, it was Carlebach.
Somewhere around this time, a very funny thing happened. Ethan Tucker, one of the leaders of Yeshivat Hadar, whom I am used to only hearing very nusach-sounding things around, appeared with kids in tow. His wife, Ariella, had been at the service since the beginning. The sight of Tucker singing along to Craig Taubman’s Hashkiveinu, while attempting to get his son to follow long in GOG was one of the more incongruous things I’ve seen at Limmud NY, but part of what makes Limmud NY so unique and special.
Chatzi Kaddish was another novel experience this time–I’m pretty sure it was the gospel song, “Down to the River.” In my head we all sounded like the women who sing it on the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack.
We wrapped up with a few more Debbie Friedman tunes and called it a day. It was good day of Limmud NY and a nice break in the middle for some good davening.
Interestingly, BZ used a handout to avoid the need for announcing page numbers and a few other things. The handout included some notes about how to use the handout, about Friedman and explaining that there would be no stage directions. Because GOG lacks Vehu Rachum at the beginning of Maariv, BZ included that on the sheet as well. It strikes me that Reform shuls could use this technique to remove a lot of the extra talking that tends to bog down Reform services, especially the now-ritualized explanation of how to use Mishkan T’filah that some have adopted.
||||| I give this service FIVE ballpoint pens!