By now, any Jew who has been awake for the past week has read numerous essays on the implications of the Pew research study on the current state of the American Jewish community. Like many others, I find the results of the study to be of great concern. I believe that there are still many more things that we, as a community, can do that would clearly make a different and could yet refresh and reinvigorate contemporary Jewish life.
And so, having written just about all that I want to say about the study, at least for now, I am returning to an earlier form of creativity: the song.
Like many kids with a guitar and a creative urge, I used to write a lot of songs. I used to perform them at college coffeehouses, camp, and various youth events. I wrote Jewish songs -- most notably with my friend and colleague Cantor Jeff Klepper http://www.jeffklepper.com I even wrote a few protest songs. The protest song is an honorable Jewish art form, going all the way back to the prophets (you knew that Isaiah had a rock band, didn’t you?), and including such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and the late Phil Ochs and Tom Lehrer.
Or, if you choose, you can label my song a parody song, in which case its musical zeyde would be the late Allan Sherman, whose fortieth yahrzeit cannot go unnoticed.
Therefore, my humble musical offering to the cause of Jewish continuity -- which, like Zionism, needs a musical anthem.
The Jews, We Are A-Changing
(with apologies to “The Times, They Are A-Changing,” by Bob Dylan – recorded exactly fifty years ago this month)
Come rabbis now gather wherever you preach
It’s more than creating an eloquent speech
Admit that we must change the way that we teach
It's a brand new game that we're playing.
There's so many people out there to reach
For the Jews, we are a changing
Come cantors, musicians and all those who sing
Let's think of the spirit that we try to bring
Cause people won't pray if it don't mean a thing
And don't understand what they're saying
Plug in your keyboards, and tune up your strings
For the Jews, we are a changing.
Come organizations all over the land
Will people come forth for things that are bland?
Are we hearing precisely what these times demand?
Our institutions are graying
It's time now for asking: just what is our brand?
For the Jews we are a changing.
Come all you philanthropists, all those who lead
We must understand now just what people need
A sense of belonging not only a creed
You know that our people are straying
It's time to respond and to do it with speed
Cause the Jews, we are a changing
We wonder exactly how this came to be
Maybe it happened because we are free
To keep or discard our identity
But this great tradition’s worth saving
Let’s say it one last time, we all can agree
That the Jews, we are a changing.
I would say that the song is best accompanied by an acoustic guitar.
Or, given the nature of things, perhaps a shofar would be best.
Because we all need a wakeup call – musical or otherwise.