There’s something about a song. A song sticks in your bones. A familiar melody can transport you through time, back to the place where it first became meaningful to you. The right song can make you feel at home, no matter where you are in world.
At this moment, I am very far from home. I’ve travelled to Cape Town from San Diego, California, where my parents, grandparents, dogs, and most of my closest friends live. I’m here for three months working on music and youth engagement programming with Temple Israel, Cape Town’s Progressive shul.
I first visited South Africa in March 2017. The leadership team here at Temple Israel invited me to come and make some music for a couple of weeks. I was immediately struck by the warmth of this community (and by the stunning brachot after services!). But it was through making music together that I knew I had made friends for life.
Music is central to Temple Israel’s community. A team of lay leaders regularly lend their strong voices to Shabbat services. On Saturday mornings, the students in the Cheder (religious school) sing enthusiastically… my impression is that Netzer’s participatory singing culture has permeated into that space, and it’s a beautiful thing.
But my favourite thing about Temple Israel is their band-led Shabbat services. On the first Friday of each month, the Green Point campus hosts Shabbat Rina; and on the second and fourth Fridays, the Wynberg shul hosts Shabbat Chesed. These lively services are accompanied by a volunteer band made up of guitarists, drummers, flautists, violinists, bassists, and ukulele players, who, having played together for more than five years, achieve that rare combination of talent and synchronicity. While the band sets the background, the members of the kahal are the stars, raising their voices together in song, prayer, and celebration.