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entries tagged with: Carolyn Enger


Sharing the gift of music

Englewood resident and concert pianist Carolyn Enger was looking for a way to contribute something to Israel when it occurred to her that the Partnership 2000 program of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey might be just the vehicle she needed.

“I was spotty in my [monetary] donations,” she said, “so I thought I would ‘donate’ myself.”

With the help of Partnership coordinator Machla Shaffer, Enger put together an April visit to Nahariya — the community’s sister city in Israel — allowing her to bring her musical talents to the Jewish state.

“I approached [Machla] because of the Israel Connections program,” she said. “It seemed to be about Israelis coming here, but I asked if it went both ways.”

Enger performed on Yom HaZikaron at Yad Labanim in Nahariya, which contains both a library and a hall for programs. After speeches were delivered, pictures of fallen soldiers were projected onto a large screen.

Enger pointed out that community shaliach Stuart Levy, speaking to The Jewish Standard in May, said he was looking to “offer ways to engage with Israel.”

“This is what I was hoping to create by example,” she said, adding that she hopes “people will use this as a precedent, thinking of how to take their talents to Israel and donate them.”

In Nahariya, Enger performed on both Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron.

“It still gives me chills,” she said. “It was so moving — the amount of participation there and throughout the country and how meaningful these days are there. It doesn’t quite feel the same here.There, the siren shakes the soul.” (On Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s memorial day for its fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, a siren sounds for one full minute while virtually the entire nation stands at attention.)

She was also impressed by how many young people were involved in the commemorations.

Enger said that while she had prepared an entire program highlighting works by American and Israeli Jewish composers, the Yom HaShoah event included candle-lighting by survivors as well as readings. Her music provided a backdrop for these events.

“An entire program of music has a different feel than when a survivor lights a candle and then you play something,” she said. “The emotional power was very strong.”

While she was scheduled to perform at the Ghetto Fighters Museum the following day, ongoing renovations there put the piano out of service. She hopes, however, that she will get to play there next year.

Enger said her concerts included a piece by contemporary Israeli composer Avner Dorman that had premiered at the New York Philharmonic.

“That made it local as well as Israeli,” she joked.

The pianist also performed music by the German composer Felix Mendelssohn, who was born Jewish.

“I’m a child of survivors,” she said, pointing out that “German survivors don’t lose their ‘German pride.’ It was a nod to where I’m coming from and how I connect. It’s just beautiful music.”

As part of her visit, Enger met with members of Amcha, which provides psychosocial help for Holocaust survivors and their families.

“There are 13 Amcha centers throughout Israel,” she said. “I plan to go to them all and will play wherever there is a piano.”

She said she wants to interview as many survivors as possible and use some of the material in a multi-media project focusing on the mischlinges, “a particular group of German Jews and half-Jews.”

“My father is a half-Jew,” she said, explaining that at the end of the 19th century, “there was a great deal of intermarriage and conversion [in Germany] for greater opportunities.” Her grandmother converted to Christianity, “but Jews don’t recognize those conversions. The mischlinges were sort of German, sort of Jewish.”

“It has informed my own spiritual journey,” she said, noting that she is now “going through an Orthodox conversion to avoid the question over my head: Is she or isn’t she?

“One characteristic [I have] in common with other mishchlinges is always kind of staying under the wire, never really opening up about identity.”

Her project, she said, will use art, music, literature, and film to tell the story of this group.

“I’m doing research, digging a bit,” she said, adding that many well-known people, such as the poet Heinrich Heine, were mischlinges.

She pointed out that she chose to play the piece by Mendelssohn “because of his German/Jewish heritage. His grandfather was the great rabbi and philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. His father, Abraham Mendelssohn, assimilated and had Felix and his siblings baptized. Felix was brought up initially without religious identity and then as a Lutheran.”

Enger said she would like to focus on this group and their experiences before, after, and during the war. Mischlinges did not escape Hitler’s attention, she said, noting, however, that it took him longer to target them.

“I want to explore their contributions and bring up the issue of identity,” she said, “maybe bringing the subject in a performance setting to schools.”

Enger said she absolutely plans to return to Israel next year to offer her gift of music.

“They want me to come back and I want to go,” she said.

“The people in Nahariya were thrilled and very excited for Carolyn to join in on the events for Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron,” said Shaffer. “We will definitely do it again next year without a doubt. It is yet again another way for the Jewish community of northern New Jersey to connect with the people of Nahariya. There is not a Jewish family in any community that has not been touched in one way or another by the Holocaust, and Carolyn has found a way to unify us all with her music.”


Boteach to head new shul

Englewood congregation will be ‘small and intimate’

Lois GoldrichLocal
Published: 05 November 2010

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has led services at his home in Englewood for more than 10 years. But despite the urging of those who have attended his High Holiday and occasional Shabbat services, “I didn’t want to be a pulpit rabbi,” said the author, television host, and columnist for this newspaper.

Recently, however, the rabbi/relationship expert agreed to conduct religious services on a regular basis in an as-yet unnamed shul.

“They’ve been pushing to create a regular synagogue service,” he said. “I feel sort of drafted. There’s a lot of enthusiasm.”

“I enjoy being part of a community, speaking to a congregation,” he added. His flock, at least initially, will include some of the 70 to 100 people who had attended his previous services.

Shmuley Boteach

The shul will be small and informal, said Boteach.

“I don’t like the formality of a big shul,” he said. Still, he added, “It’s great for some, or there wouldn’t be so many.”

Boteach, who worked with students at England’s Oxford University for 11 years, said he’s “never gotten used to the big shul format. I want something more intimate. My intention is not to exclude any prayers but rather to change the presentation of the service.”

“It goes on too long,” he said. “That’s why there’s so much talking. People get bored.”

Boteach said the typical service also does not have enough participation.

“I believe in evoking a response from people. It’s not a one-way road. I don’t just preach thoughts,” he said. “I want people to think. I don’t want to create followers but people who themselves will be leaders and have conversations with their families, friends, and guests.”

According to Boteach, a Shabbat morning service should not take more than two hours, and the weekly parsha should be used as a “launching pad for real conversations. The synagogue is not opera,” he said.

Right now, he added, Englewood doesn’t cater to people who prefer less formality.

“I’m not looking to challenge” other synagogues, he said, describing the local shuls as “strong, with outstanding rabbis.” But “there are so many who don’t attend shul” — and those are the people he is targeting. Some 90 percent of those who attended his High Holiday services never attend synagogue, he said.

Boteach, who has nine children, said he hopes people will bring their young children to synagogue services.

“I’m a critic of separate child services,” he said. “It defeats the whole purpose of a shul — for parents to be part of a community that has a relationship with God and include their children in that relationship.”

Children should learn to participate “to the best of their ability,” he said. “It’s do-able; it’s a cop-out to assume they should go straight to the monkey bars.”

In addition to religious services, the new shul — a partnership with Boteach’s This World: The Values Network — will offer activities, such as a lecture series already under way at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.

Matt Okin, a major force behind the founding of the shul and its first president, said the venture is both a continuation of the services Boteach already offers and a new project.

“There is already a core group of participants who have come together throughout the past decade or so, with more and more new people becoming interested as we move it along,” he said.

“What has become apparent is that — despite Englewood’s thriving, already-established synagogue scene — there is still not a place for people who are at various levels of observance, for those who are not observant yet and want to explore Judaism in a meaningful way at their own pace, and for those who prefer prayer services that move fast, yet also offer something tangible and exhilarating as far as Jewish learning goes.”

Okin said he hopes the focus of the new shul will be on discussion, debate, and exploration for people at all religious levels.

Most existing synagogues cater to only one denomination, he added. The goal of the new project is to create a place where “any Jewish person will feel not just welcome but also like they can fit in for the long haul, no matter what level of observance they keep, want to keep, or will ever keep.”

Englewood resident Carolyn Enger, who has attended High Holiday services at Boteach’s home and is the vice president of the new synagogue, said its founders “have always been in conversation” about creating regular services.

“He thinks about things in a thorough way and has great insight,” she said of Boteach. “He wakes us up by taking all the great body of [Jewish] knowledge and turning it on a dime into ‘How can it can inspire or transform us right now?’”

“Nothing is watered down in the service,” she said, “but [it’s presented] in a relaxed and welcoming setting.”

“It won’t be your everyday shul,” she said, adding that attendees come from varied backgrounds and are looking for some kind of “spiritual connection.”

There will be no services Nov. 5 and 6. For more information, call (201) 541-0958 or (201) 567-6664.

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