The first time I mixed Judaism and music was my Bar Mitzvah. A Bar Mitzvah is a religious right of passage and ceremony in Judaism that signifies when a boy becomes a man and accepts the Torah and commandments. From the moment a Jewish boy turns thirteen, he is considered a man in his community and has to accept responsibility for all of his actions. Typically, one would study a religious text in the weeks or months leading up to their Bar Mitzvah then teach what they learned to the community as part of the ceremony and right of passage. A lot of the time after the religious ceremony, there is a party celebrating the transition into a man and following obligations of adulthood in the Jewish community. I chose music for the theme of my Bar Mitzvah and party. Though this was more of a side-by-side cooperation than a full on mixture of the two ideas, I was bringing my music and my Judaism together for the first time. To create the theme of music for my Bar Mitzvah, we took pictures with my instruments and created album covers to give out to everyone who came to help celebrate my Bar Mitzvah.
After my Bar Mitzvah, my Jewsic really started to take a form of its own. When I entered high school, I was able to join the international Jewish youth group (or Jewth group, as I called it), BBYO. Through BBYO I was able to grow my leadership skills and expand my connection with Judaism even further. BBYO has many conventions and summer programs that have different purposes. I went to a summer program called Chapter Leadership Training Conference, or CLTC for short. The purpose of this summer program was to teach the basics of chapter leadership and meet other members of the international order to form friendships and share ideas. This is where I met some of my best friends to this day, as well as Mikey Pauker (the man who wrote the version of “Hinei Mah Tov” I wrote about in my third blog post). He was a song leader for BBYO and taught me the basics of how to become a song leader myself. I was then inspired to bring Judaism and music back to my chapter and incorporate both of them together in my life thereafter. I kept up my song leading throughout high school and would even help bring music into some religious services and events.
My Jewsical journey has continued even in college where I have helped lead educational services with Hillel, an international Jewish organization throughout colleges. The past two summers I have even worked at a Jewish day camp called Camp Hilbert, through the Weinstein Jewish Community Center in Richmond as the music specialist. It is there that I have passed on my knowledge as a song leader, teaching the campers about music and Judaism. My Jewsical journey is nowhere close to being over and this blog is just the next step along my Jewsical path. I am not sure where I will head next, but I do know that Jewsic will be a large part of my life wherever I end up.