As I write this on the eighth night of Chanukah, December 8, 2010, rehearsals for the Shabbat Shira premieres of Max Helfman Institute Fellows’ musical settings are in full swing. The Chanukiyah is filled with light as we see the fruition of the Helfman Institute’s first year come to be. The gala event set for Friday evening January 21st at 8 pm at Valley Beth Shalom synagogue includes choirs, instruments, live and pre-recorded music and will be a musical soiree that is distinguished by original thinking and creative performances. I’m sure you won’t want to miss this occasion.
In the process of teaching this group, I’ve learned as much about shepherding this talented band of composers as I’m sure they have learned about the special and specific requirements for composing literate and innovative sacred Jewish music. I think Max Helfman would have been delighted.
I’m heartened that everyone has pulled together and under Cantor Phil Baron and Dr. Noreen Green’s direction the evening is sure to be one of revelations. Continuing the metaphor of the Chanukah lights, it is especially gratifying that during these dark, trying economic times we have raised the torch of Judah Maccabee and proclaimed that even though we are assimilated American Jews, we still have a special light to share with the world through our music and belief in the wisdom and spirituality of our sacred texts. I’m convinced that this creative direction will illuminate American Jewry’s path for many years in this new century.
I want to particularly thank Dr. Richard Braun for his wonderful organizational support and abilities in conceptualizing and administering this effort as well as the Jewish Music Commission of Los Angeles, The Jewish Community Foundation, and Burton Zipser of the International Archive of Jewish Music for steadfastly believing in this process. My thanks also goes to Jack Gottlieb, Chuck Feldman, and Cantor Sheldon Merel for their historicity in making a connection between Helfman's Art Institute of the Fifties at Brandeis Camp and the present expression of Max Helfman's lofty goals. I look forward to celebrating with you all on the evening of January 21st.