Tuesday, December 26, 2023

TBE Milestones: Friday Night Live with Craig Taubman: Jan. 21, 2000

The New York area premiere of Craig Taubman's "Friday Night Live" was a major happening here, on a very cold January 21, 2000. Here's what Rabbi Sobel of Temple Sinai and I wrote on the cover of the program (which was also a simplified siddur), explaining what was about to happen.  That's followed by my service notes that I used to introduce prayers and explain the significance of this service.



 After the service, we handed out evaluation forms and got incredible response.

A few weeks later, I wrote an  article in the  NY Jewish Week, sharing the thrill of FNL.  
Here's an excerpt:

Was it a show? Yes. But no one exited that service feeling emotionally cheated or manipulated. No one would rather have been at Lincoln Center. We connected at the deepest level. And when I spoke briefly that night on the need for young, wayward Jews to return home to Judaism, I felt at one with my message.

A few days later, I got a note from one young woman with a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, who that night attended a Shabbat service for the first time. "It was WONDERFUL," she wrote, "filled with God’s spirit. I felt right at home. I’M SO EXCITED!!!" In reaching out to Jews on the fringe, we touched at least one who had strayed far beyond it. Her letter alone was enough to convince me that this show must go on.

Craig Taubman will be "performing" Friday Night Live at the upcoming Rabbinical Assembly Convention. I urge my Conservative colleagues to listen closely to their own voices singing along. Orthodox Jews will recognize this revolution in the popularity of the Carlbach style of service, which like Taubman's and B.J.'s, is also now being exported to distant places. And Reform Jews need to heed Eric Yoffie's recent cry for liturgical reform.

There is a Darwinian aspect to this that we must understand. That which brings life to our worship will survive, and that which doesn't will not. The Germanic-Eastern European music that energized synagogue life for two centuries did its job well, but its day is done, except as it is being synthesized into contemporary forms. The psalms themselves are imploring us, "Shiru L'Adonai, Shir Hadash," "Sing unto Adonai a new song." The caravan has already moved on to other ways of making our ancient, sacred prayers come alive. Service attendance will continue to decline until we all understand that it's either good show -- or no-show.

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