Feed on

Harmonic Convergence(s)

Some days, everything just comes together, and today was one of those days. Matt would disagree, as he is dealing with an ear infection. And Simon would disagree, as he is nursing the same bug I had last week. But I, at least, have had a pretty swell day after many rather tedious ones.

It began in Target of all places. Nineteen years ago, when I lived in England, I coveted Liberty of London prints. Just adored them. Alas, they were out of my price range. Several years on, I had the cash, but no access and had moved on style-wise. So what collection hit Target today? Liberty. And who was there to scoop up any and all that caught my eye? Me.

I happily came home with correspondence notes, a mug, a very cute top, and a whiff of my youth—all for under $35, as befits my new adjusted-for-unemployment budget. Lovely. The top is sleeveless and it will be in the 40s tomorrow, but I might just wear it anyway!

The second act arrived at Congregation Adath Jeshurun, where “kosher gospel” musician Joshua Nelson performed earlier tonight. Like many Jews, I love jazz and gospel. Also like many Jews, I’ve always worried it was not quite OK to sing along with gospel, especially if, you know, Jesus crept into the lyrics. So I’d smile and nod and hum. And if I was alone in the house, I’d let it rip (off key) and worry lightening might strike, be it from a Jewish God angry at my apostasy or a Christian one angry at my blasphemy I was never sure. I just new it was bad.

So here comes Mr. Nelson, an African-American of Senegalese descent who happens to also be Jewish and grew up in a Sephardic congregation in New York. One day he thought to marry the musical stylings of one side of his heritage with the liturgy of the other, and thus “kosher gospel”, AKA gospel nice Jewish girls can sing, was born. Hallelujah!

I have to say, Mr. Nelson, former Hebrew school teacher that he is, presented a much more enticing flavor of Judaism than many of my Hebrew teachers did. (Call out here to the one notable exception, Zmira Gold, a truly lovely woman who I saw at the concert tonight.) On the one hand, here’s Nelson talking about harmony and diversity and how we’re all OK as we are and then ripping out “Hine Ma Tov” to the tune of “Saints”. Ecumenical clapping, Jewish side-to-side swaying, and decidedly un-Jewish standing and dancing encouraged all the while.

Whereas I grew up with at least one teacher who called me stupid and threw chalk at me in class. This person (name withheld to protect the guilty, ah what the heck Mrs. Israel T. Naomani)  is/was the number one reason I hate my Hebrew name. Well, that and because it’s ugly. Wonder which approach I would have best responded to…..

If it wasn’t enough to be in the throws of guilt-free gospel, I had a bit of a convergence of people, too. I recognized folks from Keneseth Israel there. I bumped into cousins from both sides of my family. I was surprised to bump into my pet-sitter. I had a nice chat with Simon’s pediatrician. And my friend Gabriel was there with three other Sudanese (Lino, Aciek, and Luol), his connection being that his boss was a concert sponsor, that he told his life story at AJ last fall, and that the rabbi has been raising money to help bring his wife and daughter here from Sudan. Turns out the campaign just reached its goal, and I found out just in time to introduce Gabriel to Simon’s pediatrician, because hot diggity he’s going to need one soon.

So there it was: Two old musical traditions coalescing in an exciting new form. Old and new friends converging in ways equally coincidental and delightful. And as I think about it, I’m drinking some excellent tea out of my Liberty of London mug. Nothing but blue skies ahead, baby!

One Response to “Harmonic Convergence(s)”

  1. Amanda says:

    OOOh, I saw the Liberty ad. I’ll have to get over there. I still have a gorgeous piece (about 3 yds.) I splurged on ten years ago that I’m still trying to decide what to do with. And gospel can be belted by anyone–heck, I’m a heathen and god hasn’t struck me dead yet. I figure god likes a good tune as much as anyone.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.