Tag: Cantor Doug Cotler

Counting Down the Miracles at Or Ami

Dear Friends:

As Congregation Or Ami enters its 16th year and the Jewish world begins its 8 nights of Chanukah, we – your president, rabbis and cantor – rededicate ourselves to this incredible Jewish community.

16 years ago, Grammy award winning Cantor Doug Cotler was engaged as the first clergy member of a new community, dedicated to communal caring, Torah learning, effusive thanking and musical energy.

14 years ago, Rabbi Paul Kipnes was inspired to join Or Ami by the warmth of the community, and the dedication of our membership to innovation, to deep Jewish spirituality, to Henaynu caring and to social justice activism.

3 years ago, Rabbi Julia Weisz was charmed by Or Ami’s educational creativity and the commitment of the parents and leadership to learn and grow alongside the children.

1 year ago, Helayne Sharon accepted election as president of Or Ami, based on her strong commitment to a vibrant Campaign for Youth Engagement, a vigorously active Board of Directors, and a vital board-clergy partnership.

Daily we are energized, uplifted, and humbled by the remarkable Jewish community we experience at Congregation Or Ami.

We feel blessed to work in partnership with our hard-working and diligent Board*, self-reflective and inspired adults, and amazing young people – the very people who are ensuring Jewish continuity today and a Jewish future for tomorrow.

During this Festival of Lights, we celebrate these numerous Or Ami miracles:

1,408 sufganiot (jelly filled donuts) to be hand-delivered at Chanukah
1,190 worshippers at our Yom Kippur service
987 pages of music, prepared for our Or Ami chorale
613 marshmallows consumed at our campfire Shabbat services
320 adults at a recent parenting lecture
300 comfort bags filled on Mitzvah Day for foster kids
285 children in our school programs
173 times per day we buzz people into the synagogue
162 adults at a congregant-led evening all about deli
131 thousand dollars in our rainy day savings account
115 youth involved in our new Triple T: Tracks for Temple Teens
103 at risk children touched by our social justice programs
54 B’nai Mitzvah celebrated annually
41 rabbis and educators who served as our faculty and interns
39 families studying Torah in Mishpacha
26 mini-Torah scrolls for new primary school students
24 board members overseeing our sacred congregational work
21 empty nesters, active adults at a pot luck dinner
20 LoMPTY teens attending a regional NFTY retreat
18 adult B’nai Mitzvah this past year
12 musicians in Jewrassic Park, our Shabbat band
9 national congregational awards earned by Or Ami in our first 15 years
5 detailed financial reports prepared monthly by our finance committee
2 new exciting youth retreats (for 7th-12th and 4th-6th graders)
1 amazing Congregation Or Ami!

During Chanukah, we Jewish families put a chanukiah in our windows to illuminate all that is holy and true.

Congregation Or Ami is holy and true. We feel blessed to be part of it and we are thrilled that you are part of our family.

Chag Chanukah Sameach – Happy Chanukah!

President Helayne Sharon
Rabbi Paul Kipnes
Cantor Doug Cotler
Rabbi Julia Weisz

* Thank you to our Board and Officers: President Helayne Sharon, VP Debi Young, VP David Silverstone, VP Vadim Parizher, VP Hedi Gross, Secretary Stephanie Blau, CFO Steve Goldstein. Board Members: Eddie Bauch, Michelle Feinstein, Heidi Friedman, Dianne Gubin, Gary Kaplan, Cheryl Lederman, Steve Martini, Kevin Palm, Debby Pattiz, Melinda Pittler, Amir Rudyan, Jeff Singer, Cathy Spencer, Jon Wolfson. Ex-Officio: Rabbi Paul Kipnes, Cantor Doug Cotler, Rabbi Julia Weisz, Immediate Past President Lucille Shalometh Goldin; Past President/Advisor Michael Kaplan, LoMPTY President Noah Kipnes

God Told Moses to Sing a Song, and We Keep Following His Lead: Dispatch from Camp Newman

Josh Friedman sings along with Dan Nichols
Sitting Camp Newman’s Beit Tefilah (camp’s outdoor sanctuary), as singer/songwriter Dan Nichols concertizes with 600 young people, I realized yet again the power of a simple idea: that a song has a better chance of transmitting and preserving significant values than most speeches or sermons do.  Dan Nichols, Congregation Or Ami’s Cantor Doug Cotler, even my Bar Mitzvah student’s Torah portion all testify to this truth. 

Torah Reveals the Power of a Song
Eric Moraly and I sat in the Chadar Ochel (dining hall) after lunch, working on his Bar Mitzvah d’var Torah (speech).  [Eric is one of the 34 members of our Congregation Or Ami delegation to Camp Newman.] We read the translation of his parasha, stopping along the way to elucidate challenging words and ideas. A bright young man, Eric articulately summarized and interpreted his section: God knew that when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they would begin to follow false gods and forget Torah. So God instructed Moses to write a song – called Ha’azinu – which would remind the people of important Jewish values.

What a concept from Torah: the power of the song.

At Camp Newman, Music Sets the Stage for Everything Else
At Camp Newman, music sets the stage for and permeates everything. We sing at mifkad (morning exercizes), before and after we eat, in the middle of the day, and when it ends. Jewish songs mix with contemporary music which are combined with prayers and eidah (session) songs. It’s as if when we sing, we affirm that we are alive. It is how we express our love of life and it’s blessings.

At the Dan Nichols concert, 600 kids shined with inspired energy. It could have been a concert of any teen idol, except that our kids were jumping around to Jewish songs about tikun olam (fixing the world), tzedek (justice), Israel, and emunah (faith).

Come Quick… It’s Josh
Early in the concert, one of my kids ran up shrieking, “Come quick, it’s Josh!” As I ran down the steps, I caught a glimpse of our congregant Josh Friedman standing up on stage, right next to Dan Nichols. Apparently Dan invited Josh to help lead the community in singing the harmony.

Yup, this 10 1/2 year old kid was “living the dream.” He was up onstage with Dan Nichols – Jewish music idol –  helping him lead a full amphitheater of people in song. It was like being bat boy in the final game of the World Series, pressing the button in Times Square to lower the ball on New Year’s Eve, and starring in your own TV show, all rolled into one. As meaningfully, his bunkmates, rather than being jealous of Josh’s good fortune, joined in to celebrate this moment of simcha (joy). When the highlights of life involve music and singing, we all are that much more inspired!

We Sing Because our Hearts Need It
I thought about our own Congregation Or Ami, whose vision statement declares the centrality of music within its first sentences. Our Cantor Doug Cotler brings original music/lyrics as well as new and traditional Jewish music to our services and celebrations. Doug’s singing invites us into Jewish spirituality; it inspires us, and transforms us. We are regularly inspired to sing even more intensely by the participation regularly of our Or Ami Chorale and our Shabbat Band Jew-bacca.

At Or Ami, we sing because our hearts need it.  We sing because our faith demands it. We sing because we know that music can transmit connection to community and the Holy One, and we desperately desire those connections.

Singing Brings Forth the Best In Us
Like Josh did, like Cantor Doug does, like Dan Nichols is doing, like Moses was instructed to create, music and song so often brings out the best in us – of our values, of our energy and of our joy.  Thanks Camp Newman, Congregation Or Ami and Torah for bringing it all together.

When Music Brings Awe: Singing with the Or Ami Chorale

At its root, Or Ami is a musical community. Between the inspiring music of our Grammy award-winning Cantor Doug Cotler, the uplifting and engaging sound of our Or Ami chorale, and the envelopingly enticing tunes of our Shabbat band Jewbacca, we sing our way through joyous celebrations, moments of sadness and everything in between. This past Friday night provided yet another example of the powerful centrality of music in our congregation. [View Michael Kaplan’s pictures of the Chorale and Installation. View Michael Kaplan’s Chorale Installation Music Video]

We gathered to celebrate Shabbat, worship the Holy One, and install our new Board and Officers. We schlepped nachas (shared joy) as one of our students prepared to become a Bar Mitzvah, shed tears as we welcomed some families back into the embraced of the congregation as they mourned the deaths of loved ones, and said prayers of healing for our loved ones undergoing surgery or struggling with illness. And we did it all within the caress of song and musical prayer. 
The Or Ami Chorale hails from the earliest days of the Congregation. Founded and led by the late Judith Berman, and now conducted by the talented Bettie Ross Blumer, the Chorale is as far removed from the 1950’s Temple Choir as today’s approachable clergy are from the rabbis on high from days of old. Said differently, this Chorale invites us in, makes us want to sing/pray along, and rocks to a melody and beat that might make the early Reformers turn in their graves, but brings us to a place of spiritual wholeness. 
At one moment they are drawing us close into Kabbalat Shabbat with songs that make us dance in our seats.  The next, they are the surreptitious niggun (lai-lai-lai) singing under the creative words of the Maariv Aravim prayer. Before we know it, the Chorale is settling us down with a beautiful rendition of L’dor Vador, marking the unbroken transmission of Jewish truths: that there is a praiseworthy Holy One, that we too can live holy lives. The message is emphasized again as they (we!) sing K’doshim T’hiyu, a flowing melody, written by a congregant-composer, which urges us to strive for holiness by living ethically.

Before, after and in between, we become lost – in the most spiritually satisfying way – in the masterful musical selections, prayer settings and original music of our own Cantor Doug Cotler. Yes, soloists inspired awe in us; the instrumentalists brought us stirring music. Then, the Chorale closes the service first with a rendition of Oseh Shalom so reminiscent of the best of Baptist choirs that some do a double-take to ensure that these are Jews rocking Judaism, then bringing us to our feet, swaying and singing to Cantor Cotler’s Adonai Oz.

Music speaks louder than words, I remember singing with other Jewish youth in the 1970’s and ’80’s. This past Shabbat evening at Or Ami, listening to and singing along with the Or Ami Chorale conducted by Bettiee and with our Cantor Doug Cotler, once again reinforced this universal truth.
Thank you to all who sang. You touched my soul; you lifted us up spiritually.  Thank you. 

Bruce Springsteen, Dan Nichols and Electrifying Music

Music is like that. Electrifying, exhilarating, intoxicating. Music can transport us to higher planes of existence. I notice it whenever we go to a concert. Or go dancing. When just sitting in the sanctuary listening to Cantor Cotler when he is in the groove.

Connecting Teens Thru Music
If you want your kids to connect Jewishly, bring them to a Jewish Rock Concert. Watch them interact with their peers, even those they don’t know, as the music transforms them and transports them.

Watch Dan Nichols singing Redemption.]

A Mosh Pit in the Sanctuary
So we invite you to connect or reconnect your kid to Judaism and Or Ami in a uniquely energetic way. Bring them (yes, you should attend but like me will sit toward the back and sides, while the kids are in a mosh pit in the center of the sanctuary). The concert is appropriate for all ages, but every 6th-12th grader should be at or Ami for that 1+ hour experience. Adults should come too.

Tickets are only $10.00 ahead of time (reserve yours online here) or $15.00 at the door. Seats will sell out, so reserve yours now. Reserve your tickets here.

Music speaks louder than words. Make sure your kids and their friends are at Or Ami for this Jewish Rock Concert.