Welcoming Gitit Shoval, Our New Music Director and Cantorial Soloist, starting July 2022

I am so grateful that Gitit Shoval will be joining our staff as Music Director and Cantorial Soloist starting July 1, 2022 as was announced in an e-Blast yesterday. Gitit is, above all, a compassionate and deeply spiritual person. Her musical talent and Jewish values are two of the characteristics that underly all that she offers. Gitit has the innate ability to use her instruments – voice, guitar, and others – to achieve the many goals of synagogue music. We are so blessed that she is as excited to become part of our community as we are to have her join us.

I want to express my thanks to the members of both search committees from last year and this year, for their dedication, time, and wisdom. It is a big responsibility to recommend a candidate for a position like this, and they all performed their role with the seriousness it deserved.

Gitit will be joining us at Shabbat Services as one of our rotating Cantorial Soloists about once a month from January – May 2022. I invite you to come to temple for services, introduce yourself, and give her the warm welcome that is characteristic of our Temple Emanuel Sinai community.

Music is essential to our Jewish experience. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote a beautiful story about faith and music. He once watched a teacher explaining to young children the difference between a physical possession and a spiritual one. He had them build a paper model of Jerusalem. Then (this was in the days of tape-recorders) he put on a tape with a song about Jerusalem that he taught to the class. At the end of the session he did something very dramatic. He tore up the model and shredded the tape. He asked the children, “Do we still have the model?” They replied, No. “Do we still have the song?” They replied, Yes.

Music has extraordinary power to evoke emotion, remaining with us long after the sound of the instruments and voices fade away. This is especially true for Jewish music, which can be spiritual, comforting, inspiring, and just fun.

Jewish music is more than words alongside a tune: music is prayer and teaching; story-telling; pastoral care; community building; ritual observance; Jewish identity; social justice; mentoring children and the sharing of our Jewish values.

We can look forward to Gitit Shoval sharing all of these aspects through her music as well as engaging us to be her partners in musical expression.

A Bright Future for Worcester and Temple Emanuel Sinai

I have always considered myself a realistic optimist, a person who sees the world in abundance rather than scarcity. Although the pandemic has caused a small dent in my outlook, something usually happens to bring me back.

This week, that something is Worcester. Exciting news from the recent census shows that in the past 10 years, Worcester’s population has grown from 180,000 to 206,000, which is over 14%! Worcester is one of the fastest growing cities in New England and has grown twice the average rate in the country. As the 2nd largest city in New England, we’ve left both Providence and Springfield far behind us.

Why is this important? It is a sign that people want to come to Worcester. We have a good quality of life with a decent cost of living – certainly much better than anywhere close to Boston. And there is much to attract people: beautiful geography and recreation; great restaurants; an impressive arts community; sports; colleges and universities; a medical school and great medical care; diversity and culture; innovation in biotech and other industries; an extensive non-profit community; and so much more.

When I first interviewed at Temple Emanuel Sinai, I did my research on Worcester. From what I read, Worcester was at a tipping point. With just the right push, Worcester could be propelled to greatness… or just tumble back to the past. I was convinced of the former. And we’re seeing it happen. Even with the pandemic, our city and its surrounding towns continue to grow and flourish. People are moving here. The Worcester “Renaissance” may have experienced a slight pause, but it is still moving forward.

Temple Emanuel Sinai is benefitting from that growth. For the past few years, we’ve had young families and young adults circling the periphery of our community: attending Pray and Play or Purim Carnival; commenting on our Facebook page about our diversity work; and asking me to officiate at weddings and baby namings.

Here is the most significant evidence of our growth: for the first time since Temple Emanuel Sinai began, our Religious School has more new students registered than those who graduated – almost twice the number! This is certainly something to celebrate as we look toward the New Year. In this way and many more, the future is indeed bright.