Spirit & Soul

“When one person taps out a beat, while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a harmony they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know there is hope for the world.” – Pete Seeger

Those who have gotten to know me have learned that I am a big fan of music, from folk music to Broadway to the Grateful Dead and well beyond. 

And one of the great pleasures for me, as I continue to visit all the congregations in Upper Fairfield County, has been to experience the incredible musical talent of our community’s cantors.

Our Upper Fairfield County cantors have recorded CDs, performed on Broadway tours, played with orchestras, and led acclaimed choirs; but there is one thing they have yet to do – perform together.

I’m delighted that on Sunday, April 2 at 3 p.m., at Bennett Hall on our Weinberg Jewish Community Campus, six of our community cantors will come together for this first time ever for a very special concert called “Spirit & Soul,” joined by Rabbi Greg Wall of Beit Chaverim, an internationally acclaimed jazz saxophonist.

This wonderful event will feature:

Cantor Sheri Blum
Congregation B’nai Israel

Cantor Luis Cattan
The Conservative Synagogue

Cantor Debbie Katchko-Gray Congregation Shir Shalom

Hazzan Brian Shamash
Beth El Fairfield

Cantor Dan Sklar
Temple Israel

Cantor Shirah Sklar
Temple Shalom

“Spirit & Soul” will feature Jewish melodies, Broadway tunes, Yiddish standards and much more, as our cantors sing both alone and together.

Federation for Jewish Philanthropy is proud to be the producer of what should be an amazing concert, and we’re delighted to offer our community the opportunity to attend free ofcharge. Space is limited, so guaranteed seating can only be offered to those who register in advance at jewishphilanthropyct.org.

It’s going to be a great afternoon, and I hope you’ll be able to join us. 

I’ll be singing along.

Echoes of Purim

This past weekend, in communities around the world, the Jewish people celebrated the empowering, ridiculous, provocative, and wonderful holiday of Purim. Each year, as my congregation takes on the responsibility of reading the Book of Esther, I look forward to hearing my favorite parts of the story: namely, the moments when two very different (and yet, in some important ways, very similar) women embrace their power and stand up to the person who threatens their lives, their spirits, and their identities.

Queen Vashti has been a favorite character of mine for as long as I can remember, and while she was not a Jewish heroine, she was and is a hero for many Jewish people including me. She was placed in a position of vulnerability by her spouse, the king, and she stood up for herself, demanded the respect that she was owed as queen, and rejected the king’s order. Her action gave her so much influence and power, that the king and his advisors were left scrambling to find ways to reinforce the status quo. They finally concluded that the only option was to banish the queen in order for her punishment to be an example for all women in the kingdom, “Then will the judgment executed by Your Majesty resound throughout your realm, vast though it is; and all wives will treat their husbands with respect, high and low alike.” (Esther 1:20)

The woman who ultimately succeeded in upsetting the established power structure in Shushan was Queen Esther. Over the course of the story, her physical journey mirrored her emotional one. She was a young, orphaned girl in a far-flung village who found herself, by luck and happenstance, in the royal harem in the king’s palace. Esther then moved even closer to the center of power when she embraced her position as queen and her responsibilities to her people and decided to approach the king without an invitation. Esther saved her people in Shushan and her character is one that contemporary adults and children of all genders can be proud to honor as a true hero.

This year, the Reform Movement encouraged us to share the ways that we try to #BeLikeEsther – namely, how we have chosen to be upstanders and not bystanders in our own lives. In a world where far too many are silenced and far too few are given the opportunity to embrace their identities and power, Purim is the holiday that reminds us that the least likely person can be the one to create the most change.

Now that we have celebrated, eaten our hamentashen, and shaken our groggers, my hope is that we will continue to embrace the charge to be like Esther and like Vashti – using our voices to advocate for just causes and our empathy to honor the spirits of all people.

~ FJP Gala 2017 ~

Jewish Broadway Musicals: Past, Present, and Future
featuring ~
Jewish Music Superstar Neshama Carlebach
Acclaimed Singer-Songwriter Jill Sobule
Broadway Star Lori Wilner

7:45 PM

Westport Country Playhouse
25 Powers Court, Westport


“Shoah through Muslim Eyes”
A lecture in commemoration of
Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day

Dr. Mehnaz Afridi, Director
Holocaust, Genocide & Interfaith Education Center
Manhattan College


Sacred Heart University Commons
5151 Park Avenue, Bridgeport

Free and open to the community