Your Guide to Great Singing Opportunities in New York and Beyond, Part 2

Friends, family, acquaintances, and future friends,

In the article that follows, I have detailed occasions and events for communal singing in New York and beyond, most of which I have personally attended. Please email me if you know of others – benkramarz@gmail.com

Part 2: Secular Communal Singing Gatherings in New York

Continue reading Your Guide to Great Singing Opportunities in New York and Beyond, Part 2

Your Guide to Great Singing Opportunities in New York and Beyond, Part 1

Friends, family, acquaintances, and future friends,

In the article that follows, I have detailed occasions and events for communal singing in New York and beyond, most of which I have personally attended. Please email me if you know of others – benkramarz@gmail.com

Part 1: Minyanim and Synagogues (Jewish Prayer Spaces) in Brooklyn

Continue reading Your Guide to Great Singing Opportunities in New York and Beyond, Part 1

Finding Common Ground Through Song

The great Pete Seeger once said,

When strangers meet and find they like the same song, then there is one more connection made for the future world network. And when eventually we have a world of peace and justice, the songs and those who sing them will be some of the millions of reasons why.

A few days ago, I bicycled over to the Guitar Center at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn to pick up some new acoustic guitar strings. After carefully considering the merits of coated versus non-coated strings I decided to forego the $16-a-pack coated strings and settle for an $18 3-pack of plain-ol’ strings. As is my custom, I took a few minutes after making my purchase to wander around the store and check out the stock of guitars. Strolling past the rows and rows of electric guitars, I eventually made my way into the acoustic guitar room. As I closed the door behind me, I heard some unusual music coming from another smaller room that housed the high-end classical guitars. Following my ears, I peered through the glass door and, to my surprise, found two young Chasidic men dressed in traditional black and white garb singing and playing a Hebrew song together. Only in Brooklyn! I thought to myself. I immediately opened the door, pulled out my phone, and asked them if I could take a video. “Definitely,” they replied.

When they had finished the song, I put my phone away and stepped into the inner room to invite a conversation. “Do you know any Carlebach?” the larger Chasid asked me, referring to the music of Shlomo Carlebach, perhaps the most famous composer of Jewish music in the last 100 years.

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Singing for Justice

This past Sunday, hundreds of people bundled up in warm clothes, left their heated homes, and gathered around the arch in Washington Square Park to sing together. Some brought guitars, some brought signs, some brought children. Others just brought their voices. The collective intention was straightforward—sing for freedom, sing for peace, sing for justice.

For nearly two hours we sang our hearts out. Many of the songs we sang were classic American protest songs such as “We Shall Overcome,” “This Land is Your Land,” “Oh Freedom,” and “The Hammer Song.” Others were gospel standards lyrically adapted to the religiously diverse ethos of the crowd – “We Shall Not be Moved,” “Amazing Grace,” and “When the Saint Go Marching In.”

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The Top Eight Essential Camp Songs

Songleading pic

This article originally appeared on the Canteen Blog at My Jewish Learning on April 4, 2016

Ah, sweet memories of starry night skies…standing in a circle of teenage peers, blanketed by the fragrant summer air, our souls lifted upward in heavenly bliss by the sounds of the guitar and our voices singing together in perfect unity. The words we sing express our overflowing, positive feelings about ourselves, our fellow community members, and our idealistic vision for a better world.

Isn’t this what camp is all about?

Here are the top eight essential camp songs, the words and melodies that capture those magic moments when we put our arms around each other’s shoulders and drink in the love.

  1. Lean On Me

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For, it won’t be long
Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

I’m here for you and you’re here for me. Whether it’s a shoulder to lean on when you’re weary or a listening ear when you’re sad, you can depend on me.

Continue reading The Top Eight Essential Camp Songs

Falling Into Community

Trust fall

This article originally appeared on the Canteen Blog at My Jewish Learning on December 3, 2015

Standing in a tight circle in the woods of Northern California, a dozen eleven-year-old boys brace their bodies to catch their companion. With eyes closed, body clenched, and arms crossed over his chest, the boy in the middle of the circle calls out to his summer camp bunkmates: “Spotters ready??”

His bunkmates raise their hands to shoulder height, preparing themselves to hold his weight, and respond: “Ready!!”

Exhaling as he entrusts his body to his brothers, the boy in the middle calls out: “Ready to fall!!”

Confident in their ability to support their friend, the others give him permission to let go: “Fall on!!”

“Falling…”

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The Secret Ingredient of Summer Camp Magic

Eisner Pic

This article originally appeared on EJewishPhilanthropy on October 13, 2015

Ask children why they love camp and they will likely tell you that they love the fun activities, making new friends, or singing their cabin cheer really loudly in the dining hall.

Ask Jewish philanthropists why they love summer camp and they will probably mention a proven track record of strengthening Jewish identity and ensuring Jewish continuity.

Ask parents why they love summer camp… “It gets my kids out of the house for a month!” Regardless of the different perspectives of various stakeholders, one thing about which everybody agrees:

Summer camp is an immensely transformative experience.

Continue reading The Secret Ingredient of Summer Camp Magic