Today, on Pesach Sheni, the best Jewish holiday no one ever heard of, one reader kindly requested a reprint of story I wrote years ago that doesn't seem to be available online. Here's a slightly edited version.
Floating above the earth now like one of his weightless figures, Marc Chagall might look kindly on the recent renaissance of American Jewish culture. The mixing of Jewish motifs and secular styles; the combination of biblical themes and contemporary events; the use of playfulness to recover, even after last century's tragedy, the joie de vivre of the Jewish folk: the Russian painter's colorful, surreal, shtetl-inspired work is a model for Jews now creating inspiring Jewish lives while still being firmly connected to secular culture.
In the end, of course, “Hair” is a Broadway musical, a superficial story with superb songs that just happen to be about drugs, dropouts and draft dodging. Some teenagers, from a yeshiva, told an old man (me) that seeing “Hair” made them wish that they were “activists,” too, like the kids in “Hair,” which is as connected to real life as wanting to be a nanny after seeing “Mary Poppins,” or a horse after “Equus.”
The housing crisis we keep hearing about is being reported almost entirely from the vantage point of speculators and sellers. But if you are a young couple starting out in life, seeking to buy your first apartment or home, why is it a crisis if the housing market is in a recession, prices dive and you can suddenly afford to buy?
Not that long ago, we were talking with Sherwood Goffin (see story here), the wonderful chazzan at Lincoln Square Synagogue, about the problem of amateurs who, when leading services, freely staple niggunim (spiritual melodies), or beautiful popular Israeli songs, such as Erev Shel Shoshanim, or even Puff The Magic Dragon, to verses of the davening without any regard to how appropriate the particular tune might be to the verse.
For the past several years, Devorah has spent her professional life giving workshops on Jewish meditation, practicing holistic healing and acting as a life coach, as well as singing in the tradition of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. She never thought much about seeking a stable career that would secure her future.
But, now in her late 40s and with the economy dipping, these days Devorah worries more about the practicalities of life, like a pension, retirement benefits and security, than she ever did in the past.