Rabbi David Ingber, of Romemu in New York, shares his teaching about the Hebrew letter “vav” and its significance as a connector. This is why you’ll catch SLBCniks saying, “Vav you!”
Rabbi David Ingber, of Romemu in New York, shares his teaching about the Hebrew letter “vav” and its significance as a connector. This is why you’ll catch SLBCniks saying, “Vav you!”
We’re very excited to introduce the SLBC Skills Series, a series of short instructional videos with some of the top educators in Jewish life, sharing a wide range of tangible, practical skills.
In this video, Ellen Allard provides insight about teaching children about God.
Over the last 35 years or so, I have found that leading communities in prayer keeps getting harder, not easier. And that is not a bad thing. It’s not getting easier because the more I believe in the potential of communal prayer to effect change in the world by changing the ones who pray, the more heart and skill and reflection it takes for me to do my job to the best of my ability, and for the good of my community. It’s wonderfully and continually challenging and changing. When worship works, it is often because leaders have a vision of what they hope to accomplish, because they have personal relationships with the words in the siddur, because they have spent large amounts of time mastering the tools and techniques at their disposal (ritually, musically, and liturgically), and because they can spiritually articulate their vision in collaboration with their community. It is a lifetime of learning, growing, collaborating, and reflecting.
This year, in the Worship Leaders’ Track at SLBC, we’ll be diving into what it means to be a prayer-leader: having a vision, helping the liturgy sing, text exploration, contemporary repertoire sharing, and more. No matter where you are on your journey as a worship-leader, I think that there will be something for everyone. I hope you’ll join us.
Cantor Ellen Dreskin
Ellen Allard is a nationally recognized early childhood music specialist. She performs children’s concerts around the country and is truly a teacher’s teacher, lending her expertise to strengthen and build the Jewish community around her.
Part of what makes SLBC a unique community is the caliber of its faculty. Ellen’s warm inclusivity and deep knowledge make her the kind of teacher that other teachers want to learn from! Whether you are an early childhood education specialist, Jewish community professional, or lay leader, Ellen’s workshops will help you turn your internal kaleidoscope and see things from a new perspective.
Ellen sat down to tell us a little bit of what you can hope to learn if you attend her sessions at SLBC.
Check out Ellen's website to stay up to date on her music, performances and workshops.
SLBC veteran Samantha Trattner is a student by day and inspiring songleader by night. She’s worked at camp, Hillel, and congregations, leading participants through song. What makes Sam such an inspiring songleader? It’s all about heart.
Samantha recorded her song, Esa Einei, at the 2016 SLBC National Conference. It’s a song about the death of her father; her heart, strength, and beautiful voice are guaranteed to touch you.
Songleader Boot Camp is so special because of the people who make up this incredible community – who share their vulnerabilities and strengths openly. Thank you, Sam, for inspiring the SLBC community!
Reposted from Kolot Ramah.
Guest blogger: Adena Leon
When I received an email from Camp Ramah in California about attending the Songleader Boot Camp National Conference (SLBC) as a member of the 2016 Cohort, I answered back immediately with an ecstatic “YES!” I didn’t really know what to expect going into SLBC, only that I would get to sing and learn some pretty cool Jewish music. I had no idea that I would gain leadership skills, expand my musical repertoire, learn from incredible teachers, rabbis, and musicians, make new friends, and find a deep connection to music through Judaism and camp.
Through the incredible vision of Rick and Elisa Recht, Jewish musicians from all parts of the country gathered together in St. Louis, Missouri, to immerse themselves in song and share their music. In the Ramah track, Ramahniks from almost all of the Ramah camps participated in song sessions, leadership training, and Torah learning. Along with learning, we shared traditions and songs from our respective camps, creating a stronger Ramah movement-wide community.
SLBC as a whole provided me with a deeper connection to Judaism and specifically Jewish music. The power of song infused with Jewish values, prayer, and kavannah (intention) opened my eyes to a new world of connecting to my religion. In the Shema, we are asked by God to “listen.” The harmonies that rose out of over 200 voices when the Shema was said during Shacharit gave me a whole new reason to listen. I listened as my own voice blended seamlessly with the rest of the room and my ears couldn’t distinguish one voice from another. I felt unified and comfortable in a community I knew I belonged in.
With each song we learned, each technique we mastered, I saw myself connecting even more to Judaism. Each song, each niggun, each teaching, brought me closer to my religion. Learning how music and leadership go hand in hand and how music has been a key part of our history only brought me closer to Judaism and our culture.
In one of our first sessions, we were asked by Rick Recht to repeat this statement: I am the leader. I am the leader. I am the leader. Each time, emphasizing a different word. As I say it now, I find myself assessing what I learned at SLBC and envisioning how I will bring it back to camp this summer. I see myself teaching new music, leading Shira in our Chadar Ochel, and teaching my fellow staff members how important music is in the camp community and in the Jewish community as a whole. With the skills I gained at SLBC, I know that I will become a stronger leader at camp.
As we closed three days of music, Torah, and leadership, we stood in a circle singing our hearts out and unifying our voices to praise God, “Hallelujah.” I stood with my fellow Ramahniks and Jewish songleaders from around the country with an even deeper connection to music. The opportunity given to me by Ramah has filled my heart with music and a connection to Judaism that I can’t wait to share with my friends and community this kayitz!
Adena Leon is a senior at Champs Charter High School for the Arts in Los Angeles, California. She has been a camper at Camp Ramah in California for eight summers and went on Ramah Israel Seminar in 2014. Adena spent her first summer on staff in 2015 and will be returning as a senior counselor this upcoming summer.
Reposted from St. Louis Jewish Light.
Hazzan Joanna Dulkin takes part in a morning prayer service at the Songleader Boot Camp conference on Monday morning at the Jewish Community Center. Photo: Andrew Kerman
By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light
When it comes to expressing the reason Jewish music in St. Louis is so special, Joanna Dulkin doesn’t hesitate. Standing in a hallway at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex, the former cantor of Shaare Zedek gestures at the man standing to her right.
“This is why,” she said with a laugh. “What Rick does is allow each person to tap into that special part of who they are that makes them unique which is then able to be translated into [their being] a leader.”
With his cheery enthusiasm and seemingly boundless energy, Jewish rocker Rick Recht can indeed have that effect on people. After all, he’s the reason Dulkin, now ahazzan for a New Jersey synagogue, is visiting St. Louis. He is a driving force behind this week’s Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC), a unique three-day gathering that kicked off its seventh annual iteration Sunday attracting some 250 participants from around the nation and the planet. Dulkin is one of those who taught at the event. Meanwhile, other projects associated with Recht, like Jewish Rock Radio, the venture he helped found in 2009, continue to be a success. His rationale for that enterprise could read as a philosophy for much of what he does.
“Our mission is to strengthen Jewish identity and engagement through the power of music,” said Recht. “We know that music is an incredibly effective vehicle for inspiring and connecting people.”
‘A culture of innovation’
Recht may have gotten the ball rolling but it seems the Gateway City’s influence in the universe of Jewish music is growing even beyond the St. Louis native’s impressive star power and developing an identity in its own right as an emerging force in the genre.
“In terms of sheer impact, there are people in every camp in St. Louis, in almost every synagogue, every walk of Jewish life that share these languages, methodologies and strategies together,” said Recht who notes that SLBC also has regional conferences in cities around the country. “We have this common language in St. Louis that is not just ours now. It is a language we are sharing with people all over the world.”
That’s been Recht’s hope for some time and the dream seems to be bearing fruit. Dulkin, who moved to the East Coast three years ago, said that the area is becoming a hub of musical creativity.
“I lived here for seven years and there is an incredible culture of innovation in St. Louis that is very special,” she said. “If you are not from here, you don’t realize how special this is.”
In fact, it is special enough to pull in important names from elsewhere. David Ingber was honored as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America a few years ago by Newsweek. This week, he is enjoying his first visit to SLBC but he’d heard of the event even before meeting Recht.
“From all four corners of the country, people are coming together in Missouri,” said Ingber. “The truth is that I came from New York City to come to St. Louis to participate in what I think is radically important leadership training that affects Jewish leadership at every level and in every area.”
Ingber, rabbi of Romemu, a New York synagogue, is a keynoter for the event. He said the Gateway City is growing in national prominence noting that what he terms “the St. Louis experience” shows the flourishing of Jewish life outside cultural hubs on the East and West coasts.
“This is what I’m going to go home and tell my community,” he said. “In St. Louis there’s a conference that isn’t just inspiring people to be great leaders but is actually inspiring them and instructing them. Those two together – that’s what we need.”
From music to leadership
That’s indicative of an ongoing evolution in SLBC itself from training in songleading to a broader focus on leadership skills. Recht notes that many of the participants in the event have little to do with music but are simply associated with leadership roles in various parts of Jewish communal life.
“Putting energy into that can have an exponential effect – the idea of teaching teachers and leaders, sharing the skill sets that are necessary for other leaders whether they are day school teachers, religious school teachers, rabbis, cantors, lay leaders, teenagers, song leaders,” said Recht. “All of these are Jewish educators and when we help expand their skill sets, we are putting them in the position of having major, profound, long-term impacts on our community and on this entire Jewish world.”
Recht, executive director of the event, has had quite an effect himself. Not only is SLBC attracting attention but St. Louis-based Jewish Rock Radio (JRR), his 24/7 internet radio station, continues to rake in listeners. About 75,000 have downloaded mobile apps associated with the station which Recht said remains the biggest of its kind in the nation. A new initiative of his launching this spring will distribute free digital copies of Jewish tunes to thousands of young adults associated with groups like YPD, Hillel and Birthright.
A center of Jewish music
As host to SLBC, the Jewish Community Center has played an important role as well, according to Rabbi Brad Horwitz, director of Jewish Engagement and Adult Programs at the JCC.
“I think St. Louis definitely has become a place where people look for inspiration and leadership when it comes to Jewish music,” said Horwitz, an SLBC co-founder. “Gradually over the last 10 years through programs like Songleader Boot Camp and other efforts that go on in our community, the people who have been touched by Jewish music want to bring it to other people. It snowballs.”
Meanwhile, SLBC has continued to grow – as has its hosting facility’s imprint on the national scene.
“St. Louis is certainly a JCC that has made a substantial commitment to Jewish music,” said Dr. David Ackerman, director of the Mandel Center for Jewish Education at the New York-based JCC Association of North America which had seven different teams attending the event. “It is a JCC that has recognized the power of music in Jewish life, the power of music to affect people socially, emotionally and spiritually. They have really demonstrated leadership in the field to the Jewish community at large and to the JCC movement by accepting responsibility for helping to create opportunities for people to make music wherever they find themselves.”
Local participation is high as well thanks in part to 50 scholarships supported by the local Jewish Federation, Gladys K. Crown Foundation and various private donors. Dulkin said she regularly sees a blend of local and out-of-town faces at the event.
“I think this is a natural spot because we are literally in the center of it all,” she said of St. Louis.
Zoey Fleisher, 17, is one of those participating from the St. Louis area.
“I’ve learned a lot about the importance of music in building community and I’m constantly relearning how that plays into my life,” said the Central Reform congregant who hopes to become a music educator when she’s older. “Every time, it is something different and something new and there is always something new to learn and new people to learn from.”
Her 15-year-old friend Zoe Rosenberg of United Hebrew Congregation also hopes to improve her skills as a song leader, a role she has with NFTY-Missouri Valley.
“From SLBC, I’ve really learned how to bring a presence to the music that I play,” said the Parkway Central sophomore. “I’ve learned that it is not just about sitting at the front of the room or even walking around from person-to-person to engage them. It’s more about getting each and every individual into the music and the song session.”
Reposted from Jewish Philanthropy.
Bringing together over 200 North American Jewish professionals, the 3-day 2016 Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC) National Conference opens today at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center. Now in its 7th year, SLBC’s innovative and soulful approach has attracted more than 2,000 clergy, musicians and lay leaders who want to develop their leadership skills and truly impact their home communities.
According to Rabbi Sharon Brous of LA’s IKAR, “SLBC is an incredibly energizing and inspiring and really soulful space where people can search within their own hearts to figure out what kind of leaders they are and what kind of leaders they can actually be in the world. It is pretty extraordinary! The level of inspiration is so high.”
Launched in 2009 by Rick Recht, SLBC National Conference convenes an interdenominational community of rabbis, cantors, Jewish educators, family engagement specialists, Jewish camping staff and veteran and new song leaders. SLBC teaches participants new ways to create interactive connections, expand their leadership abilities and learn skills and techniques to inspire change. Songleader Boot Camp has partnered with many national Jewish organizations, including PJ Library, JCCA Camps, Ramah Camping Movement and the Cantor’s Assembly. This year’s SLBC will feature the PJ Library Track for more than 36 family engagement professionals who were selected through a highly competitive application process. SLBC also features specialty tracks for clergy, educators, songleaders and alumni.
By Rabbi Joel Seltzer, Executive Director of Camp Ramah in the Poconos
It has been three weeks now since I left my first Songleader Boot Camp, and if the marker of the success of a conference is its staying power, then I can say unequivocally, that this conference was a huge success. But the real question is: why am I still thinking about SLBC?
For me the answer is simple: it challenged me. It challenged me to think deeply about the role of music in my life and in the life of a Jewish spiritual community, such as the overnight camp I have the privilege of overseeing. It challenged me spiritually, pushing me to experience the power of prayer that exists outside the binding of the siddur. It challenged me get over my engrained ‘Ashkenaziness’ and actually reach out and hold hands with a stranger in a prayerful moment. And lastly it challenged me to think of my own music – what is it, where does it come from, and how do I choose to share it with others?
So in short – SLBC challenged me – and do you know what? With that challenge, comes the lasting impact.
Rabbi Joel Seltzer is originally from Philadelphia, PA and he himself is a home-grown product of Camp Ramah in the Poconos. Whether as a camper, a counselor, a Rosh Edah (Division Head), or Rosh Drama (Head of Performing Arts), Rabbi Joel learned countless personal and professional life lessons from his time at camp. A graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Rabbi Joel served as a rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, RI for four years before returning to his spiritual home: Camp Ramah. Rabbi Joel lives in Philadelphia with his wife Eliana (whom he met at Camp!), and their daughters Ayelet, Talia, and Noa.
You Can Follow Rabbi Joel on twitter at: @joseltzer
Also, you can read his collection of monthly essays on haaretz.com by clicking here.
I love to describe myself as a “Jewish Cheerleader.” I think my job as rabbi and educator is to share my passion and ignite the passion in those around me. I hope to inspire my students and congregants to be their best selves, and to inspire my community to be its best communal self, too. In terms of my leadership qualities, I have a passionate personality and energy. I share joy, enthusiasm and fun. If you’re not loving it, then how can those around you? One of the things I learned my first year at SLBC was during an early childhood music session with Shira Kline, but it applies to everything I do and to every age – you have to enjoy it yourself. Just enjoy – this will take you so far as a leader. I always say to myself during my bar and bat mitzvah lessons, that if I’m not having fun, then how can my students? My first and foremost leadership strategy and leadership advice is just this: Live your passion. Communicate your passion. Share your passion. This is how to inspire others to live theirs, too.
The second most important thing I’ve learned as a leader is the importance of creating and maintaining deep connection, rapport, and approachability. Leadership is about presence, but it’s also about connection – about getting down on the floor with the little ones and sitting next to the older folks. It’s about listening and reflecting, and walking the path together with your learners.
This weekend we just launched our first "Shabbat Interactive" Saturday morning service, and I'm really excited about it. It was a suggestion by some people in the congregation who wanted something a little more… On the first Friday night of the month we have a Shabbat Alive! style service with our band (made of teens and adults) and featuring a different religious school class, and it's a high energy, interactive singing and dancing service. Our Saturday morning services tend to be more traditional, and we explored some ways to make it more engaging for those present. So we came up with this service that would involve more singing and in particular more discussion of the Torah portion. This past weekend was our first one, and it was fabulous! In order to get multi-generational discussion going, I put together a source sheet with guided questions related to just one line in the portion (about gossip and the power of our words to create or destroy worlds, just like God does at the beginning of creation). So together with their families and with other congregants in these totally awesome mixed groups, they shared their thoughts on the questions and then shared with the whole congregation. Everyone had a blast, and came away with a deeper connection not only to the Torah portion, but to each other!
Lastly, just give and be open to receiving at the same time. There are so many ways to lead, and so many techniques for teaching and leading. But the bottom line for each is to be passionate, share that passion freely, and be open to what comes back to you. When I walk away from leading a service, teaching a class, or working with a student, when I feel I’ve learned something, too, I know I’ve succeeded.
Cecelia currently serves as the associate rabbi and education director at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield, New Jersey. Prior to this, Cecelia served as the assistant rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights, New York. Cecelia was ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary in May 2010, where she pursued a concentration in sacred music as part of her studies. Cecelia is also an accomplished singer, actor, and dancer. She is a classically trained soprano, a musical theater buff, and a competitive Irish step dancer. Cecelia and her husband Gabe live with their cats Sabrina, Albus, and Minerva, and a lab mix Sandy.