Cantors Mission to Spain Final Day/Thoughts
As the Israeli Ambassador to Spain put it at our Sunday night concert, “Music transcends time. It is the image of our souls.” Whether dancing for a packed house for Shabbat services, an impromptu chanting of Ani Maamin in a church (that was once a mosque, that was once a synagogue), or a sing-along of Israel’s greatest hits, our mission to Spain showed us all that beyond Am Yisrael Chai (the nation of Israel lives), Lev Yisrael Chai (the heart of Israel lives).
During our last day, Professor Berk reiterated this idea that perception is reality. This goes for human history, but as we go from the learning and singing, this “camp-like” bubble of an existence over these past two weeks, away from the chaos of society and the Pokemon Gos of the world, it is our collective responsibility to make sure that the perception of both the past and present remain as genuine and introspective as possible, so that the future remains bright.
Our last day included a morning tour of Seville, including a visit to the Cathedral Palace (where Columbus can be found) and a tour of the Royal Alcazar Palace of Seville. The evening was punctuated by a Flamenco performance and Israeli song festival at the Real Venta De Antequera, a place that normally hosts bull fights!
Berk’s last lecture of the trip was sponsored by my synagogue, the Jacksonville Jewish Center, and I do want to thank the synagogue and leadership for giving me opportunities like this for personal and professional growth! Most of Berk’s lecture focused on Franco’s rule and this play between European countries following World War II. To be honest, my focus during this time period was always on Germany, Poland, Russia and even Italy. Hearing about Spain’s position in this period brought the art work we saw at the beginning of the trip (the film about mass poverty, Picasso’s Guernica) back to life. We can say “never forget”, but if we never know, it’s hard to never forget. As the lecture turned into a question and answer, Berk focused his energy on what he saw as the eventual inclusion of Turkey into the EU. As the gateway to the Middle East, Turkey is an important political/military ally. As the borders would open with its inclusion into the EU, the conversation about security is a very serious one. This talk, two days before an attempted military coup in Turkey!
- I learned a lot about the interplay between religions; the interactions between factions of religions. Spain’s Jews had a Golden Age, and there was a not so golden age. I learned a lot about post-WWII Spain. Meeting with and hearing the stories of Masorti Jews in Spain today, I found it worrisome that we don’t pay more attention to this group of Jews trying to create a Casa Sefarad in Spain once again. The Joint Distribution Committee gives very little to the Masorti communities in Europe. Hopefully through twinning and through education, this will change. The Golden age will never return, but love of culture, love of a modern Spanish Jewry can!
- Kippah- I felt weird not wearing a kippah (for security reasons it seemed like more people went kippah commando or hat on this trip vs. Germany, ironically). It’s not like I didn’t scream tourist with my fanny pack, diaper backpack, and camera bag.
- Most importantly, I realized that more than the cantorial music they sing, these cantors on our trip, and I gather the same can be said about the cantorate in general, are loved. They are beloved by their friends and congregants (and congregants who are friends). Hearing how non-cantor trip participants (of which there were 300+) spoke about my cantorial friends in such glowing ways was truly inspiring. As a social experiment, one need only look at the dozens of photos I posted from our concerts for those back home to enjoy. These were not videos of cantors singing, but cantors smiling and loving what they do. To wake up to hundreds of notifications saying that hundreds of people that I don’t know loved/liked/commented on my photos shows the impact our cantors are making today. The way in which we interpret music is important, but the way in which we engage with our community through our personalities and stories means so much more. From strength to strength!
I love being in a country where everyone pronounces Dafna (airport/customs personal, hotel receptionists, bartenders) the right way!