Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yom HaShoah

Last night began Yom HaShoah, the annual day of memorializing the Holocaust. I sang in the service at my synagogue. We joined forces with two other synagogues in Summit, NJ, Temple Sinai and Summit JCC. (Yes, the latter really is a synagogue.) The other two synagogues have paid cantors who are also choir leaders, music directors, whatever you call them, and they're both very good. So all three rabbis were there, members of the choirs sang together, and there were guest speakers and readers. The service was quite moving. I sang a solo part in a song called Herman's Nigun. A nigun is a wordless song of prayer. I don't have a lot of solo singing experience, but I got a ton of feedback from many people telling me it was beautiful and moving. I was glad that I was able to help them feel something. One person said jokingly that I'm a star, but that seems wrong. I did it to serve others, not to glorify myself. And I owe a lot to Cantor Krupnick, who explained the goal and inspired me right before the service. She said we are to reach out and invite everyone to join in, either by singing along or just by listening.

There was a slide show at the end, showing a two-week tour of concentration camps in Poland and in Israel. Very stark and moving. This tour happens at least once a year and sounds worthwhile. I'd like to do it one day.

Tonight, I'm singing with Harmonium in another Yom HaShoah service, this time at Grace Madison Church in Madison, NJ. I'm pretty sure it's an interfaith service. It should be nice, but I regret not being home for dinner with my family.

Right before last night's service, I drove Julia plus her friends to orchestra practice in Madison, which they have every Monday night. Jeanne came along for the sake of visiting. Julia's bass takes up part of the hatch in my car plus one seat. We had Julia, Jeanne, Nicole, and Vallie, so really, there were more people than available seats, and there was the typical teenage banter, this time in English and French. It was fun. On the way, we stopped and ate a rushed pizza dinner at the Trattoria in Summit. Nicole's mother drove Nicole and Jeanne and Julia home. One of Vallie's parents drove Vallie home.


  1. Hi Tommy!

    Just a note to let you know I've been reading your blog, and to comment on this post in particular...

    Yesterday I rode the motorcycle to work. It's about 50 miles each way on some pretty straight two-lane roads through forest, and sometimes I wonder how I'm going to keep my mind occupied through it, especially when I'm riding in the dark, before the sunrise.

    I tried a Native American hop dance chant that a buddy had taught me. It doesn't really involve words, just sounds and breathing. There are two sets of four beats, the first one higher in tone and the second one lower, then both are repeated. Sort of like "HAY-YAH-YAY-AYE, hay-yay-yay-aye", etc., sung at the top of my voice, over and over again. I figured people would think I was nuts, but what of that?

    Anyway, after a while, it occurred to me how much it sounded like "Hallelujah, Hallelujah", which I thought to mean a general thanks and praise to God. So I started to sing that instead as I watched the sun come up over the trees and I felt the differences in temperature from one place to another. I continued this for about fifteen minutes straight until my ride was over.

    When I got to work, I looked up Hallelujah on Wikipedia. This is what it says:

    In the Hebrew Bible "hallelujah" is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. The first part, hallelu, is the second person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hallal.[2] However, "hallelujah" means more than simply "praise Yah", as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise, to boast in God, or to act madly or foolishly.[3]

    This is very much how I felt on that ride.

  2. Wow, that's pretty amazing. I mean your ride, what you learned and experienced. It explains why we have a song that goes, "Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah."

    And you may know the Arabic word "halal" which means permissible, as in halal meat. It's word for kosher, and Muslim rules are almost identical rules to the Jewish rules. And the languages are related, too.