“Sing unto God, sing a new song oh sing praises to God!” This psalm text, set to music by teacher, friend, artist Debbie Friedman of blessed memory, has been on my mind this month, and the chorus grows ever louder as I’ve approached 2022.
I am a relentless optimist. That does not mean that I am not aware of the challenges in the world or oblivious to the sadness and suffering of so many. Rather, I believe with my whole heart that hope can always be replenished, healing is always possible.
2021 was a year of chaos. Our most basic civic processes and structures were threatened, we seemed to come out of a year of disease only to go right back, and little systemic, sustainable progress has been made on social justice issues.
This is why I have hope: because also in 2021 numerous voices broke through and helped us to look up and ahead. From Amanda Gorman’s thrilling reading on the steps of the Capitol, to the thousands of employees who are demanding a different way to create safe and healthy work environments, to Brandi Carlisle interpreting Joni Mitchell at the Kennedy Center earlier this month, we just needed to adjust the dial and tune in to a new frequency of promise and possibility.
This past year, our Jewish music community enjoyed a virtual Hava Nashira and Shabbat Shira that brought new people into our sacred fold. I had the opportunity to sing, worship and create new vision with congregations across North America, both online and on site. I got to vision with Rabbi Larry Hoffman, one of our great thinkers, about reforming worship. I helped preside over the installation of a Rabbinic friend and colleague I have known since we were summer campers at GUCI all those years ago. My nephew and his fiance--both rabbis in training--celebrated their nuptials in person. (It was so thrilling to see so many “baby” clergy singing and praying that weekend!) I taught students at HUC who were both receptive and pushed back in all the ways you would want our next leaders to do so. I sang with my dear friends Dan Nichols and Cantor Ellen Dreskin in front of a live audience.
In 2022, I am committing to the power of voices, both individually and collectively. In the coming weeks, I’ll be launching a non-profit organization that honors the best of our traditions while celebrating new ideas and innovations in meaningful worship and communal singing. Later this spring, I will be releasing a new book on songleading, entitled “Songleading: A Work of Art” from Transcontinental Music Publications.
None of this would have been possible without so many of my great colleagues and friends. Your hard work in and for the world makes me proud to be a part of this community of helpers and healers. You challenged me to do better and be better. Thank you.
I hear you. I am listening. The world may be in chaos but, as Debbie’s song continues, “with joy sing out from your hearts, oh sing praises to God!”