Jewish Journal

Return to Shabbat with Nashuva’s musical uplift

by Danielle Berrin

June 5, 2007 | 10:10 am

Set inside the barn-like atmosphere of Westwood Hills Church, an unlikely venue for a Sabbath celebration, a 12-part band is flanked by an understated but engaging leader and a spiritually hungry crowd packs the wooden pews. This is how Nashuva celebrates Shabbat. By any standard this is an unusual circumstance for a holy Jewish observance, but the ostensibly diverse crowd, from a mixed-age congregation to a multi-ethnic band, signals an openness to revelation and an awareness of purpose that infuses every prayer and inspires every song.
Throughout the service, all eyes are on Rabbi Naomi Levy, standing center stage and singing from the soul, her pure voice accompanied by the rocking beats of an eclectic entourage.  With ingenuity, she introduces her sermon on the week’s Torah portion by asking the audience their thoughts, “What if Gd made all your decisions for you – how would you feel?” And in their earnestness the crowd offers their answers, “relieved,” calls a woman from the back, “rebellious,” cries a pimple-faced teen to my left, “angry,” shouts a bald man in a white sweater.  “Yes! We feel all of those things, but why?” interjects the Rabbi, before telling the tale of the Jews wandering through the desert, their souls parched, much like the Jews of Los Angeles searching for meaning in their busy lives.

As generously as Gd sent manna from the heavens to encapsulate any incarnation of appetite, Rabbi Naomi and her band invite the community “to return” (as the Hebrew word “Nashuva” implies); to nourish their souls in release, to stand and sing away the chaos of life and welcome the blessing of Shabbat – a day for rest and reflection, for pleasures, for renewal and repair; the kind of Sabbath we imagine coming home to, where intimacy, warmth and acceptance mean we are always welcome, to return.

Greet the Sabbath bride with Nashuva the 1st Friday of each month. 6:45pm. Westwood Hills Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd., Westwood.

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Written by Danielle Berrin and Dikla Kadosh

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