BETH EL NEWS: Music by Israeli students adds to special service

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The Carlebach service was combined with a visit by the Tzofim Caravan

By Steve Guggenheim, Correspondent
All winter long you are cooped up inside so why not take advantage of the weather? That is the theory behind an outdoor service held at Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor.
Cantor Larry Brandspiegel says with summertime you can do so much outside so why shouldn’t that include religion. He says it gives you a more spiritual feeling, that you are able to connect with nature and feel closer to God. By being outside he says Shabbat doesn’t come knocking at the door, but we welcome it outside.
The Friday night service combined several different ideas. The first is the ABC Shabbat – American Barbecue and Carlebach Shabbat. The service borrowed melodies started by the late Shlomo Carlebach that are very upbeat.
Carlebach was a rabbi, teacher, composer and singer who was known as the “Singing Rabbi.” He was considered one of the most unorthodox Orthodox rabbis of the 20th century. In fact his life was made into a Broadway musical. The music is so uplifting that you sing and clap to it.
Beth El has done an outside Carlebach Shabbat for the past several years. Brandspiegel says Carlebach not only created music, but he used it to inspire the Jewish people into a better understanding of Judaism. He had a knack for engaging people with his music and the cantor says the melodies lend themselves of the words that are sung at the traditional Friday night service.
The Carlebach service was combined with a visit by the Tzofim Caravan, a group of co-ed scouts from Israel that is on a three-month tour of the U.S. The high school students spend six months of training to learn songs and production in order to share their experiences. One of them said the idea is to let the Jews of America know what is happening in Israel. In addition to the Friday night service they also made a presentation at the regular Saturday Shabbat service held at Beth El.
The scouts say they put off final exams in order to take part in the tour. Once they are back the tests begin and many of them will then be heading into the army.
Brandspiegel says the combination of the Carlebach Shabbat and the visit by the Israeli scouts gave the service a special connection not only to nature but also from one part of the world to another, which strengthens our connection to Israel.