a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

I am Noah Aronson’s #1 Fan

Posted on: November 13, 2010

Hi Noah. :)

I suppose it’s only right to explain the title for this blog.  If you’ve not heard of Noah Aronson then you must be living under a rock, you’re not Jewish, or you really like your traditional Jewish music.  Noah is a composer of both Jewish and secular music and is currently in Canada, if I’m not mistaken, bringing the wonderfully thoughtful, soulful, and impassioned melodies of his music to a community this evening.  Monthly Noah plays right here in Brooklyn, NY for Congregation Beth Elohim for the best, hands down, Shabbat service ever.

When Noah plays CBE the small chapel is filled to the max and the entire congregation stands up, claps, sings, and some even boogie down to his mix of melodies that have distinct sounds from the far east intertwined with beats and tempos that this 31-year-old black Jew can really groove to.  It’s almost impossible to listen to his music without tapping your fingers to the beat.  When tapping becomes too little an expression of joy, you add your feet, and when that’s not enough you clap, and sway feeling overwhelmed with the happiness that is supposed to accompany Shabbat.  It’s a shame that he only plays once a month because he makes the Shabbat experience unlike any I’ve experienced and one that I long for every Friday night.  His version of Shalom Aleichem has been in my head since last night’s service.

I do not discredit the haunting beauty of a cantor singing ancient Ashkenazi melodies that have been sung for the generations but the wonderful sounds of Noah’s Sephardic roots paired with his addicting guitar cords are truly inspirational and moving.  If you haven’t done so yet, check out his music!

So after Shabbat service Mirs and I had plans to eat Shabbat dinner at the home of our good friends Rachel and Tom.  I was thrilled because it was my first ever Shabbat dinner.  I dream of the day that Mirs and I actually have a dining room table that’s large enough for us to host a Shabbat dinner of our own.  When I picture it in my head I’m filled with excitement, anticipation, and sheer terror of what Shabbat is “supposed” to look like.  I remember reading a post on another blog of a Jew of Color and a guest at her Shabbat dinner had the gal to tell her that what she served was not appropriate for Shabbat. 

What is appropriate for Shabbat other than the bread, the wine, and the candles.  In my opinion, nothing.  Shabbat is what you make of it and it’s the reason that we, the Jewish people, have survived for so long.  It’s my favorite part of the week and I actually scolded myself for rushing out of the city late and not being home to light the candles with Mirs in time.  Rachel and Tom made a Shabbat dinner that was out of this world and probably something that I would’ve done myself-minus the dozen people present.  Don’t get me wrong, I can only hope to have an apartment large enough to feed many people but for the time being, my Shabbat dinner will be small.

I didn’t take a tally but when everyone arrived to their Park Slope apartment (including Noah, minus his guitar) there had to be at least 15 people present.  The neurotic planner in me wondered how she’d find enough seating for everyone.  I noticed place settings around the home but thankfully everyone sat on the couch, pulled up chairs and just enjoyed the company.  The way that it turned out allowed for everyone in the room to mingle and chat and feast on a meal of Matzo Ball soup, Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan, Baked Chicken with Potatoes, Roasted Squash with Cranberries, White Fish with Olives, Sautéed Kale, Challah, and an assortment of dessert and wine.  

After the soup course I looked at Mirs and smiled broadly, I felt Jewish.  I was in a room of Jews doing what millions of other Jews were doing all over New York, the United States, and the world.   I looked into her eyes and pictured what our Shabbat dinners will look like this year, next year, five years from now, twenty years from now.  I felt Jewish and for the first time when I told people that I was in the process of converting they were genuinely excited.  I chatted with rabbi’s sons and rabbi’s daughters about why this black gay girl was making the choice to become a Jew.  I felt really accepted by these people who understood what I was saying to them.  My last Noah shout out is about blessings.  I told him my revelation about the reasons Jews bless things last night over soup and he nodded his head not in agreement, but understanding.  I said something that was, to him, what he knew as a born Jew.  Something I learned as a new Jew, but something we both understood.

3 Responses to "I am Noah Aronson’s #1 Fan"

Great post Erika! It was a really nice night and I’m so glad you guys were a part of it.
There were 18 people at dinner :)
In your last few sentences…can you explain? About Blessings? You know more then me :)

18!! That’s insane!! Thank you so much for having us! The food was amazing and the night overall was outstanding.

Blessings, eh? As the girl formerly known as a lazy Christian, I was under the impression that when you bless something that it makes it Holy. At church you bless the wine and bread, you bless food before you eat it, etc. Jewish thought says that everything is Holy because it comes from God; Me, you, food, etc. We bless them so that we make them seperate and acceptable for us to have.

I thought it was touching because at a wedding the couple blesses the other, making them seperate from everything else in the world, making them “for” the other and the other only. When I think of blessings in that way it makes more sense and it’s special, as cheesy as that sounds.

[...] November Mirs and I attended an amazing Shabbat dinnerat the home of our friends Rachel and Tom.  It was amazing because it was one of the first times [...]

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