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Cantor Jeff Warschauer
TJC Newsletter Article for February 2019


New Adult Torah-Reading Class Starting in February!
 
Anyone who sets foot in The Jewish Center notices right away that the place is bursting at the seams with activity. Here is another exciting project, initiated by the Religious Activities Committee.
 
Beginning this month, I will be teaching a five-session trope and Torah-reading class for adults, on Thursday evenings. The classes will take place from 7:30pm to 9pm at TJC on February 21 and 28, plus March 7, 14 and 28.
 
One of my favorite scholars, Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey M. Summit, writes:
“In the Jewish community, chanting sacred text is an important way that women and men are increasingly putting themselves at the center of the worship service […] Chanting Torah is a mark of core cultural competence […] Increasing numbers of Jews understand and describe the performance of sacred text as a means of self-fulfillment as they claim ownership of their religious and cultural traditions.”
 
As Summit describes, learning to read Torah as an adult can be a powerful, highly-rewarding experience. For example, my mother’s adult Bat Mitzvah:
 
A number of years ago, my mother, who was turning 75, invited my extended family to Boston to celebrate. Part of the festivities included Shabbat morning services at her synagogue, Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
 
It was a beautiful sunny winter morning when we arrived. Beth El is a very lively scene, and we quickly got caught up in the flow of the service.
 
When we got to the Torah service, we were surprised when my mom, in her beautiful, rainbow-colored tallit, was called up for an aliyah. But we were completely floored, when she took hold of the yad, and began reading from the Sefer Torah!
 
It turned out that she had been studying for a year in preparation for that moment. My mother loves surprises, so typically, she had kept her studies a secret from all of us.
 
My mother, who was raised in an Orthodox family, never had the opportunity, as a girl and as a young woman, to be a full participant in Jewish ritual. It was only as an adult that she was able to fully make the tradition her own. 
 
As she grasped the yad, and began to read, my eyes filled with tears. For my mother, the study that she had been keeping quiet about, and the experience of joining in the long “chain of tradition” of Torah reading, was truly life-changing. And for our family, it was a powerful affirmation of her spirit and tenacity.
 
Is learning to chant easy, if you’ve never done it before? No. But I guarantee that you can do it, and I, and in fact, the whole TJC community, will be there to help and encourage you every step of the way.
 
One of TJC’s recent Adult B’nei Mitzvah, Jenny Ludmer, put it this way:
“Learning to chant from the Torah, as an adult, has been both incredibly rewarding and humbling. Once you’ve actually had the experience of participating at the center of the service, it changes your whole perspective. You gain a powerful sense of accomplishment and connection as you become a vital participant in an ancient ritual. And then you realize that you’re not yet finished; rather, you’ve only just begun.“
 
So come take your first steps with us! Questions? Please contact me at cantorjeff@thejewishcenter.org, or (347) 623-4228.
 
Cantor Jeff Warschauer