Shirei Chagigah, Reform Judaism’s biennial music conference, took place from 6-9 July, with four days of workshops, concerts and prayer hosted by Radlett Reform Synagogue and Finchley Reform Synagogue.
The conference was run by Cantor Zöe Jacobs of Finchley Reform Synagogue, who brought over a faculty of four renowned Jewish music experts from the USA: Rabbi Ken Chasen, Noah Aronson, Elana Arian and Cantor Rosalie Boxt.
Cantor Zöe Jacobs says: “Shirei Chagigah was developed to educate community leaders about effective and creative strategies for leading t’fillah (prayer) and song, by learning from the finest songleaders and prayer innovators”.
Attending were delegates from 20 British communities, from Glasgow to Cornwall, along with participants from four other countries. They included rabbis, cantors, cheder teachers, choir leaders and youth leaders, as well as music lovers attending in a non-professional capacity.
Sessions included the history and development of music in our services, composition, nusach, guitar skills, how to songlead using your whole body, and how to blend the traditional with the new.
Madrichim (leaders) from RSY-Netzer played a significant role, teaching and leading songs. Cantor Zöe Jacobs says: “This is a group of young people who are ahead of the curve; already integrating songleading techniques into their t’fillah leadership. It’s great for them to be able to share with the wider community what they can do, and it affords us the chance to acknowledge the extraordinary talent among our younger generation”.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism says: “It was an outstanding, joyful and practical celebration of music which will impact directly on our communities”.
Sue Pearlman, Honorary Secretary of Reform Judaism says: “My head is still spinning with the music from Shirei Chagigah. But it wasn’t just the singing: it was the opportunity to spend time thinking and learning about how we use music in our shuls to enhance our, and our communities’, spiritual experience”.
Cantor Galit Dadoun-Cohen: “What a wonderful time spent learning and singing! I’m feeling filled with gratitude and song”.
Delegate Janet Berenson added: “It was such a joy to be there and see and be part of the ruach and the music”.
There was a concert on Saturday night at the Radlett Centre, open to the whole community, in which the conference faculty shared their compositions. The concert was opened by British-Jewish composers Judith Silver and Dean Staker.