How I Finally Felt Better, and Understood All (with Thank-Yous at the End)

I had a cathartic evening last Friday night. Daniel, the director of the Beit Daniel choir begged and cajoled me into agreeing to sing with them one last time for services last evening. I was dreading it--every moment spent there, once I understood I wouldn't get Jaffo, felt like a rejection. Really painful, and somehow shameful, as if I finally was proven to be the imposter I always felt. And before and during this evening, when talking to people, even at the bank, I got weepy--when will I grow up?

But I took the train, Daniel picked me up at the station. We rehearsed, I ran into the rabbi I did Yom Kippur with, who held my hand and spoke solid comfort, and said that of course the head rabbi would write a letter of recommendation for me, and that he would sign it too. He was very sweet, and I was blubby, as usual.

Before the service, as the choir lit our own Shabbat candles at the proper time, as we always did during our rehearsals, I cried to think of the end of that, included among so many endings for me. Then I asked Daniel not to talk about me during the service, and he said he could see why he shouldn't.

The service. About halfway through the sermon about Tu b'Shevat, I suddenly looked around, and thought "Sheesh, I was so unbelievably LUCKY to have actually worked here, and served these lovely warm people, and been considered for Jaffo!! And the other congregations, too! I have come so far from my origins, and proved myself to be tough and brave, and now I know my own value!" And up went my prayer of thanks. Suddenly I felt SO much better. By the end of the service, when finally Daniel talked about me (he lied!), I was ok, moved, but not weepy (thank G-d!)

Apparently he had let people know that it would be my last service, and about 400 people were there. Daniel read the card they had made for me, and gave me a gift, and the congregation smiled and clapped, and poof! I was leaving another congregation that loved me. And I'll get my letter. During the kiddush, so many people came to talk, and I got a CD and so much love, I felt almost myself again. (It has been a couple of months since I was with my Koleinu friends, after all!)

Daniel and Lia, his lovely girlfriend from Brazil, drove me home, and what they said to me, I was suddenly able to hear. Earlier that week I talked with a friend from home--she asked me, "won't you miss anyone?" and I couldn't think of anyone!) But I will miss Lia and Daniel, the choir members, and the people from the congregation of Beit Daniel who wanted from me and appreciated what I could give, and Rabbah Galia and Rabbi Gilad (who just might be Prime Minister some day, and I will come back just to vote for him!) It was always about the synagogue, the congregation. My work.

And then I came home to emails from 2 congregations (in California...) who want to meet with me. As Daniel said, I only need one to go for me, whether there or somewhere else! Whatever these 3 years was really about seems clearer now. Not about the people who let me down, or who didn't believe in me, not even about Israel, but about ME. For me finally to believe in my own abilities. Letting go of so much, to find what I really need. I will be very careful about what I take on again, too.

I'm thankful that I realized all of this, and understood it now, as I prepare to find my new "home."

I'm also more grateful than I can say to all of you, who have stuck with me this whole time, and offered me such support and love. If you would like to follow the next stage of my journey (..."Cindy's US Adventure" maybe?) let me know!

Position Wanted

Well, dear readers, I'm coming home. Anybody know of a cantorial soloist/music director job that's open?

In the end, all of the prospects one by one turned to dust, and it's time for me to come back to the States and try to find a congregation to serve. My skill set is enriched by my improved Hebrew, experience living as an Israeli, and all the new melodies and songs I have learned.

I loved living here, so much. But I couldn't build a life, or make a living. And it's too hard to be alone.

My lease is up in March, so I'll be back by the middle of the month, with luck (though I haven't had much luck lately...)

And if you hear of a job, please keep me in mind!

"Autumn" in Israel

Last week the temps dropped to ... 70F, and people started wearing wool sweaters, sweatshirts, and heavy jackets! I'm still stifling, except at night, when it goes to about 65F!

Tonight, just at dusk, the power went out. Nothing to do but light a bunch of candles, finally do the dishes (!) and then sit in my little room doing sudokus, listening to mellow Chet Baker jazz on the computer, and drinking a nice red wine!

Am off to Vienna on Sat 6 AM --such uncivilized departure times here! Have booked my ticket to the Lipizzaner horse show at the Spanish Riding School (my little-girl wish come true!) for Sunday. We will do 9 concerts in 10 days, starting in Vienna commemmorating Kristallnacht, and finishing in Budapest for a closed reception dedicating a memorial to Daniel Pearl, where the US Ambassador will be in attendance.

I spoke with Rabbi Azari about Jaffo today--everything is up in the air. I wonder if I will lose that, too. Well, nothing I can do. He knows I am here to do whatever is needed, and heaven knows I have been patient. Why am I here?

Picked up another job, doing QA for a nice bunch of consultants who are building a business and website at the same time. Money is not great, but negotiable after 3 months, and I started today. It's more nit-picking, like I do for the National Institute for Testing and Evaluation (hereafter, NITE) (makes it sound like a spy agency!) I like the people I work for, and it is all from home, which is nice. So I think I have put together mostly a living wage.

That's it for now...more after the trip!

Yom Kippur, Leaving Galron, and a Party

Yom Kippur services went very very well, especially considering the Rabbi had a drippy cold and lost his voice and I didn't truly know what I was doing. I had tunes for most of the big prayers, and made up the chanting for the rest. I was "on" for all of every service, even the Torah services. They actually sang along with me by the end of each block of services with the tunes I was making up, so I was definitely doing something right! There are different musical motives for each of the sections of the prayers.

The evening service that started everything was about 2.5 hours long, started, with the fast. about 45 minutes before sundown. I was exhausted after, and didn't feel that it went very well (though everyone else was happy) gave myself a good talking-to about deserving to be there, and having done months of preparation, and I needed to stick my head up, shoulders back, and trust my work and my gifts. Then I slept, better than I have for a while.

Morning service started at 9, went until 1:30, without a break. I stood up the whole time (in flats, but, still!) and sang the whole time (not exaggerating!) Then we had a 2.5 hour break, and started again at 4, and went until 7:30 pm. The day went very well, I hit my stride and people were very enthusiastic! And by the end, while my brain wasn't working, my voice was big and strong as usual! All in all I got through 5 amidahs and 5 viduis, 4 complete Avinu Malkeinus, all with ALL of the text--nothing like the US machzor! I put in enough "traditional" nusach in each to make people think I knew what I was doing!

You have to realize that there is no "congregation" in Jaffo yet, so nearly every person who attended the services were people who saw the signs outside the building, and walked in. We had about 150 in the evening service, and many told me afterwards that they loved the feel of the service and would be back the next day--and then they came back! (I was always good at customer retention!)

Rabbah Galia called me after I got home, and told me she had heard wonderful things about the services, and that Beit Daniel is priveleged to have me working with them, and asked me to be patient, and that she is sure that I will be the "voice" of the Jaffo congregation. Very sweet, esp. since she also had been working the whole holy day! (And I stressed that the privelege is ALL mine, and I meant it.) It was a very good start, (I know that I am always referring to my work at Beit Daniel as "good starts"--it's a process!) and will help convince the senior rabbi that I should be there more often.

They have booked me for Oct 24, and that's a start. It just will take time for me to finally become the best candidate in a group of possibilities. Exactly what happened at TBS in Cols--I know how it works, with patience and hard work and continual learning, and NO POLITICS until I can do everything they need me to do. I'll get there. And it gives me a real goal to keep going for.

The next night I went to services in the big synagogue (BD from now on!) and everyone, everyone wanted to know how it went if they weren't there in Jaffo, and congratulated me if they were, and Rabbah Galia (who has been my mentor since she first saw my resume and heard my CD last October) greeted me publicly from the podium when I came into the sanctuary at the start of the service. Cantor Freddy invited me up to do one of my signature prayers, then Galia and Freddy invited me up to sing the closing song. Further indication that I'm "om the team." Which I have been for a while, but I don't get quite enough validation (who does?) I'll be satisfied for a while, now. Once the holidays are over, Freddie and I will sit down with the Hallel, which we do every Rosh Chodesh. I have bits and pieces, but not the whole thing, with the tunes they know.

So my second YK finished!

I am leaving the Galron choir--I love the singers, and they have been lovely to me, but I have serious personality conflicts with both the "conductor" and the manager. So I will find another choir that does similar music, and whose management will be delighted to have me. Ironically, Koleinu members will be visiting Galron at the end of November--and I will not be there at all.

Last Saturday evening I had a dinner party to celebrate the marriage of my friends Yaakov and Dalia (they are the first in the slideshow, with their daughter Aurielle.) Yaki's and my friend Eva, whom we met in the absorption center, was visiting here from Prague with her sister, and they were with us. And Stephanie and Jeff from the States rounded out the congenial group. Neshikah the cat was particularly sociable that evening, and stayed with us! We ate and laughed, and it was lovely to entertain friends!

We are preparing for a concert tour of Vienna (one of our concerts will be a commemmoration of Christallnacht), Bratislava, and Budapest. The trip is heavily subsidized by a group that promotes better relations between Christians and Jews in Eastern Europe. I'm very excited to be part of the trip, the concept, and the music. (The cat sitter will cost me more than the trip!)

More soon...meantime, stay in touch!

Acharei haChagim (After the Holy days)

So long since I have written here, though I write all the time in my head! Now where's that robot to write my thoughts?

Preparing for Yom Kippur, pages and pages of transliterated Hebrew that I will chant using a series of melodies that fit the tone of the day...yes, to the purists, I will learn the "right" way for next year. But after learning numbers of Sephardic and Israeli melodies for texts I have perfectly good Ashkenazic tunes, I'm finished. I will be lucky to get my mouth around the Hebrew correctly. I'm serious, pages and pages of transliteration. But this is the way I have always worked, and I will do it from the real Hebrew sooner than most people might think!

Tonight I finally made the roster of clergy--"Chazzanit Cindy Leland" (though when they talk about me from the bima they just say "Cindy" which apparently is enough to make all heads turn to where I am sitting in the congregation.)

The congregation members are so sweet to me. I have been befriended by a Holocaust survivor, Ayalah, who in my darkest hours finally gave me the comfort and then the advice I needed: "Be happy. Make yourself be happy. You have your health, you can work. You are beautiful and talented. Be happy!"

When you get that message from someone who lost everybody and everything, you listen.

And there are so many more, people who shake my hand when I light the candles and stumble through the Hebrew sentences that follow the blessing (I know that, at least!) And the ones who close their eyes when I sing after the silent prayer, or whose eyes light up when I start Carlebach's "L'cha Dodi." And the rabbi who commented after my first Shabbat morning service "I really liked your Nishmat Kol Chai" only I made it up as I went along (successfully, that day) and happened on something nice. Can I reproduce it? I doubt it!

So I have stopped assessing my life, and am simply living it. Working, looking for more work, working on the chazzanut, finding time for a new choir (more about that later) and trying to make room in my habits for friends. Though, right now every conversation is punctuated with the phrase "acharei haChagim" (after the holy days.)

My newest choir is one I found by chance--reading an English-speakers' digest of email messages, I found one: "Soprano urgently needed!" Well, I just had to check it out, and they do need me. The choir, the Alie Geffen Chorale, is comprised completely-but-one of Russians! They sing sacred classical music--Shubert in Hebrew, Mozart in Latin, Mendelssohn, Tchaikowsky in Russian, just lovely lovely stuff, and I know almost all of it from my "former life." I sang most of it in English, but to have Mendelssohn's "He Watching Over Israel Slumbers Not Nor Sleeps" in the original Hebrew, from the psalm--oh, it is magic.

So I was hooked, and then I learned that they are prepping for a concert tour of Vienna (for a performance to commemmorate Kristallnacht) then to Bratislava and finally to Budapest. And the best thing is that it has been heavily subsidized by some group and will cost me only $350! So I really HAD to agree--I could never get to those places on my own.

And it turns out that my friend Alice from Columbus will be in Budapest when I am there!

I am moving on, moving forward. Beit Daniel has booked me for an October Shabbat (besides the holiday) and I will have more. I will.

Doors closing, what about the windows? The answer below.

Life has been, life--some bad, some good.

Bad: After a year of increasing misery, I broke up with the very unsatisfactory man, and only after found out what a sick, lying pig b----rd he really is! A very close call. Next relationship, if there is one, will be on my terms, no alternatives.

Told the whole story to a good friend here, and have a new sister! Good!

Made a new friend originally from the UK and very sensible and supportive. Makes me laugh, takes me out. Am finally seeing Tel Aviv--good!

Auditioned for the Israeli Opera (they asked me, after all, but wanted a mezzo--not exactly me, but what the heck?) Chazzanut, good, but the required Handel aria--bad! Oh, well.

Last week at Hadassah, my boss came back from a meeting with the big-wigs, to tell me that after the holy days in the fall my job will be eliminated. Bad.

Last night, Cantor and composer Jeff Klepper was at Beit Daniel, visiting at the end of a trip here. For those of you who don't know his work, his work along with Debbie Friedman's, revolutionized and revived Reform and now Conservative liturgical music. Jeff contacted me after he found my blog, and let me know he would be in town. We ended up singing his Shalom Rav and Oseh Shalom together, without rehearsal--the best kind of fun I know, anyway, and a special thrill because it was Jeff Klepper! And we were good. The congregation absolutely loved it, and everyone was very nice after the service, and this morning, too, especially Cantor Freddy. Good!

And finally last night I realized that I need the bima time--it is a kind of hunger that gnaws at me day and night. When I am up there, singing, I am healed and healing, whole. I need to find an accompanist/partner, and make it happen. This must be my main objective (once I have an income, since I like to eat, too!) Truth is always good.

Now off to work on Yom Kippur. I will be the cantor in Jaffo! Good!

Five goods, three bads--the goods win! Nice to know.

Stay in touch, my friends!

Watch this space...lots of stuff coming soon...

Well, for one reason or another, I have been journalling and emailing my thoughts and not writing here. But any minute now I will be back. Having passed through the fire, and clean, and ready for business!

But tomorrow I am in the office, at Hadassah, to earn my "daily bread"! So patience for just a few more days, and pictures, and stories! And pictures! And stories...

"Please wait..