a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Don’t Throw the Shul out With the Music Director

Posted on: November 8, 2013

For the past few weeks I’ve gotten to shul and been disappointed. Not because our rabbi isn’t awesome, because he is…it’s just that it’s not quite the same without our song director. I’ve written about Joey a few times and I’d be lying if I said that he wasn’t the reason I joined the shul. I’ve gone so far as to say that where ever he went I would go. Very Ruth. So when I called and found out that he wasn’t going anywhere, per se, he just wasn’t there, I was left in spiritual shambles.

I called and asked the person on the other end who would be leading evening services and she told me the rabbi would. “Well, will Joey be there?” I asked.

“No,” she told me. “Joey’s no longer leading service so that he can spend more time with his family.”

I hung up the phone and felt a huge pit in my stomach. And while I know that the whole of my spiritual fulfillment shouldn’t lay in the incredibly moving niggunim of one man, I felt like crying.

If you’ve ever experienced a Joey Weisenberg Shabbat evening then you know what I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t, it’s like…going to hear the President speak and getting Joe Biden instead. It’s like getting tickets for a Fleetwood Mac reunion without Stevie Nicks. It’s like latkes without apple sauce (or sour cream).

Joking aside, I shed a single tear. Because I know that I’ll have to, once again, find a new shul. A shul where I may have to explain my presence, a shul where I’ll have to prove myself. A shul where they don’t already know my name.

Does it seem a bit much to throw the entire shul away because of a song director? Perhaps, but then again, you probably haven’t experienced the magic that is Joey.

3 Responses to "Don’t Throw the Shul out With the Music Director"

I hear you, I relate, I have to opposite problem. I love attending shul services, but I just cannot endure the shul choir. Their singing is good, very listenable, BUT I cannot take it. The motivation it takes to attend shul does not make sense, I want to daven, not listen to a music recital. Oh well, rant is over now.

My spouse and I are moving into a more Jewish area, I am hoping that the only Masorti shul in the country might be able to accomodate my davening needs.

Yeah, that’s why I liked this guy. I really despise choirs as well as cantors for the same reason. Shul is about praying, not about being a spectator listening to music. Joey really wasn’t about performing, but rather having congregants participate in their own spirituality. Davening was alive with him…
…my concerns are that other Conservative shuls will be to rigid and lack any soul and I can’t fathom going into a Reform shul either.

I checked out the Masorti Shul on facebook, I am actually quite excited moving (back) into the shtetl (here in South Africa, the more observant Jews are very concentrated in a couple of big suburbs in Johannesburg, hence the reference shtetl, lovely people from Litvak heritage, hehehe) it is a small shul (reminds me very much of the small Reform shul I converted in, another city altogether). Hopefully their davening minhag will gel with mine and all will be good.

If all of our plans works out, then I will daven Friday night in a Chassidic Shul (more of a shtebl, very welcoming and about 5 houses away from my house, because walking in a Friday night in Johannesburg might prove to be risky) and Shabbat Morning, walking to “my” Masorti Shul, which is about a 20 minute walk. Very excited.

Happy Shul shopping

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