The Songs of Your Youth and of the Reform Movement’s Youth

by Cantor Bradley Hyman

At some point in a person’s life, they lose touch with the most current trends in popular music. To be clear, you will become your parents. You might make an effort to listen to radio stations or watch videos, which attempt to bring you closer in understanding why things are more or less trending, but you will never fully grasp wearing a dress made out of meat (a la Lady Gaga) or “twerking.”

Thankfully, there are ways we can all come together. The common denominator, which can be found at URJ summer camps or NFTY events all around North America and in Israel, is contemporary Jewish music. There is real power in the sounds created in these sacred spaces, and many of the leaders of our congregations and Jewish institutions are products of this music. It is inevitable that children who attend these camps and programs will grow up and into the next generation of leadership. They will choose to become cantors or rabbis. Perhaps as congregational lay leadership, they will decide to remain active in programs or institutions responsible for shaping them along their journey. Or perhaps they will determine it is time to remove themselves from their community, by not funding or supporting these institutions. There are very deep emotional attachments to these places and to the soundtrack that was playing while they were there. Therefore, it is crucial that we really listen— to both our youth, and to the music they are creating and singing in NFTY.

Here are some of the sounds you might consider listening to:

Josh Nelson’s “Yih’yu L’ratzon”

Dan Nichols’s “Kehilah Kedoshah”

Casey Prusher’s “Elohai N’shama”

Cantor Jeff Klepper and Rabbi Danny Freelander’s “Shalom Rav”

This piece from TIME magazine highlights similar examples of great contemporary Jewish music.

I hope you will attend the URJ Biennial in San Diego in December and pay attention to the music you hear from both the stage and in the halls. Purchase a CD or download the latest music from any one of a growing group of successful contemporary Jewish artists, who are making it easier to relate to our children and ultimately to each other. The way to foster good relationships with people is to find a way to speak to their soul, to get at what they value most dearly and to help them grow it. Music does this quickly and most effectively.

Cantor Bradley Hyman has served Temple Chaverim of Plainview, N.Y., since 2004. He is a graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s School of Sacred Music. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Michigan State University. Cantor Hyman is a product of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) and served as a song leader for three URJ summer camps.

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