Broadway’s much-loved show tunes were a prism that shone new light on the Torah throughout this joyous weekend workshop. Starting Friday evening with “Getting to Know You”, from The King and I, we sang and laughed and danced our way through the weekend, using a songbook assembled by Rabbi Jonathan and Carol Fox Prescott. The songs — most of which had been written by Jews – had been chosen carefully. They reflected the underlying meanings of lighting Hanukah and Shabbat candles, the prayer services and the Torah reading, as well as many of the key tenets of Judaism.
In what was certainly a first for the WJC (if not anywhere), Rabbi Jonathan and Carol used Broadway songs to highlight key themes of the Shabbat service. For example: Gratitude was expressed by “I Got the Sun in the Morning (and the Moon at Night)” by Irving Berlin; for God in Nature we sang “Beautiful Beautiful World” from The Apple Tree, for Infinite Love, we sang “One Hand, One Heart” from West Side Story; and the Sh’ma was expressed by “One (Singular Sensation)” from A Chorus Line.
Rabbi Jonathan and Carol also gave teachings on the profound universal and Jewish meanings expressed by many of the songs. The group was moved by the verses in “Dancing in the Dark”, from The Band Wagon, which express our universal yearning for meaning and desire for connection:
Dancing in the dark, ‘til the tune ends
We’re dancing in the dark, and it soon ends.
We’re waltzing in the wonder of why we’re here;
Time hurries by, we’re here and gone.
Looking for the light of a new love
To brighten up the night.
I have you to love, and we can face the music together;
Dancing in the dark…
On Sunday, we further explored the power of music. A number of the participants had the opportunity to give solo performances for self-selected songs. Carol provided coaching and feedback, and the audience offered support and encouragement, as the performers gave of themselves and received love in return.