For me, Congregation Or Ami is most compelling when we are singing together. Music uplifts, inspires, teaches, transmits values, is joyous, is fun, can be transformational. Our Cantor Doug Cotler encourages and invites others to sing with, play with, and create the music that celebrates holiness and the Holy One.
Our Vision and Values place “musical” within the first lines of self-description:
At Or Ami, people matter. Congregation Or Ami is home to a warm and welcoming, innovative, musical Jewish community. We deepen relationships with each other, while immersing in Torah, Israel and the Source of All Life. We travel together down Jewish paths which inspire our hearts and souls, and transform us to seek justice and nurture compassion in the world.
Our High Holy Day services were once referred to as “Yom Kippur, the Musical”, in recognition of how central a part music – traditional, innovative, contemporary – plays in these Days of Awe.
Thus I was particularly grabbed by a South Jerusalem posting about a Midrash (rabbinic story) which suggests, according to Haim Watzman, that singing the Song of the Sea (Mi Chamocha) was not a reaction to redemption, but part of its cause:
…at the end of the midrash, God says that he has been waiting for someone to sing to him. That seems to imply that, in some sense, the Song at the Sea was not a reaction to redemption, but part of its cause. In other words, the physical redemption from slavery could become the spiritual redemption from slavery only when the Children of Israel found a way to use language not to complain, not as an instrument for achieving some practical result, but in order to express gratitude, wonder, and joy. In turning everyday language into poetry, they completed the circle that connected them to their God. In singing, they raised themselves toward heaven.
No doubt that singing at Or Ami – with Cantor Doug Cotler, with our Or Ami chorale, with our band (currently Blue Suede Jews), with our many lay-led shlichay tzibur (worship leaders) – is the reason that so many feel so spiritual when we are together. Redemption comes through singing. Redemption comes FROM singing!