The Torah of Music (2017)
by Joey Weisenberg
Music is the soul's native language: a prayer, a divine ladder upon which we climb between the Earth and the Heavens. But music also reaches horizontally across our social fractures and dogmas and connect us one with the other. Just as it cuts the nonsense away from our hearts, music opens our ears so that we can listen to the subtle nuances and sacred whispers of the world around us. In every moment, music encourages us to ask ourselves: Can we hear the songs that are already being sung by all of creation?
In The Torah of Music (Hadar Press, 2017), Joey Weisenberg brings together a comprehensive collection of 180 curated texts from the Jewish, musical-spiritual imagination. In the first half, Weisenberg reflects on ancient texts alongside stories from his life as a musician. In the second half, Weisenberg presents a bilingual 'open library' of traditional texts on the subject of music and song, garnered from over three thousand years of Jewish history, to open up the world of Jewish musical thought to all who are willing to join the song.
Building Singing Communities (2011)
by Joey Weisenberg
Building Singing Communities is an easy-to-read, how-to guide to making music a lasting and joy-filled force in shul and Jewish life. In this short book, author, musician, and educator Joey Weisenberg presents us with a veritable treasure house of musical opportunities. "Just think how far we could come," says Weisenberg, "if we treated the songs sung by our day-to-day, lay synagogue community as seriously as we do the music created by professional stage musicians? We could create an atmosphere of both great beauty and drama in our spaces of prayer; we would value each and every individual in our community as a creative musician, and encourage his or her efforts in an attitude of musical collaboration."
Building Singing Communities is for the experienced musician and the musical layman alike. Its pages are full of practical guidance and heartfelt inspiration—the result of Weisenberg's spending hundred of hours working hands-on with Jewish communities across the U.S. and abroad. Pick it up when you need advice for leading a class; keep it close at hand for inspiration about how to make your shul a more song-filled place—or even for what to sing at your Shabbos table. "It's my hope that, with this collection of strategies you'll re-actualize the talents and potential of your community," writes Weisenberg, "reaping the benefits of re-starting what is, in fact, our beautiful, longstanding tradition of collective Jewish song."
by Joey Weisenberg
Available to order from lulu.com
With the sheet music to the first four CDs in Joey Weisenberg's Nigunim series.
In these compositions and on the accompanying recordings, you can hear older styles of Jewish music - nigunim (wordless melodies), z’mirot (Sabbath-table melodies), choral music, and traditional nusach (prayer chant) - organically melding with the spontaneous improvisation, liberated harmonies and indie soul music of the Brooklyn soundscape.
This music is for singing, together. Sing this music with others - at your table, in sacred spaces, and anywhere else where you might create spontaneous moments of collective beauty. Indeed, the nigun is the great communal musical art form of Jewish life. Please use these melodies to build your own singing communities!
What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities
by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer
Read excerpts from Empowered Judaism here:
The Real Crisis in American Judaism (The Jewish Week)
Press for Empowered Judaism:
Association of Jewish Libraries Review
diaTribe Review: "Empowered Judaism" (TCJewfolk.com)
Creating a Community of Meaning (Writing It Down)
Empowered Judaism, Future Tense, and Radical Judaism: A Brave New Weird Jewish World (Scorchin Torah and Strange Thoughts)
Independent Minyanim: A Growing Generation Y Phenomenon (San Diego Jewish World)
'Empowered Judaism' (Letter to the Editor, The Jewish Journal)
Toward Adult Jewish Literacy (EJewish Philanthropy)
Minyans, Synagogues In New Dynamic (The Jewish Week)
Get Serious About Your Jewish Life: An Interview with Elie Kaunfer (The Jewish Week)
Minyan Man (Tablet Magazine)
A Fresh Take on the Jewish Faith (The American Prospect)
Empowering Judaism (Shma)
Supply-Side Judaism (The Forward)
Independent Minyanim: The Book (Jewschool)
Declaration of Independents (NJ Jewish News)
Empowered Judaism - Reviewed by Israel Drazin (The Jewish Eye)
Rethinking Everything (The Modern Rabbi)
Praise for Empowered Judaism
"A thoughtful, wise, passionate, relevant, exceptionally useful and user-friendly book."
—Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary
“Rabbi Elie Kaunfer has emerged as an insistent and compelling voice for enhanced Jewish life in the twenty-first century. The minyanim of which he speaks are symbolic of a deeper vision: an entire community that is empowered, knowledgeable and committed to the richness of the Jewish tradition. Nothing short of a manifesto for the next generation, a challenge to the Jewish community about what we are likely to fall into by default if we do not take Kaunfer’s book seriously.”
—Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, professor of liturgy, worship and ritual, Hebrew Union College; co-founder, Synagogue 3000; editor, My People’s Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries series
“Taps into the spiritual yearning of a generation that hungers for a Jewish religious practice that is rich, meaningful and unapologetic. Captures the remarkable phenomenon of a newly emergent movement to reclaim vibrancy and vitality in Jewish life. [An] important and valuable contribution to the Jewish future.”
—Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder, IKAR
“Remarkable.… A ‘must read’ for people trying to understand this vital new phenomenon as well as for individuals seeking to connect to Judaism in a new way—be they lay people, scholars, or leaders of the American Jewish community.”
—Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, founding president, Jewish Life Network; founding president, CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
“This is no ordinary book. This is a call to revolution … a passionate and brilliant manifesto [that] sets out a new course for Jewish life in America…. For an American Jewish community despairing of its future, this book is a prophecy of hope and new vision.”
—Rabbi Edward Feinstein, editor, Jews and Judaism in the 21st Century: Human Responsibility, the Presence of God and the Future of the Covenant
“This moving book reveals a critical new development in the lives of younger American Jews. Not often does one have the opportunity to read such an inside story on dramatically positive Jewish history in the making. Elie Kaunfer’s vivid account of participating in the creation of Hadar, an ‘Independent Congregation’ community that fosters Jewish liturgical and intellectual rigor, egalitarian ethics and group responsibility, and spirituality at the same time is compelling. His analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of conventional American Jewish congregations is spot-on, and will surely provoke lively and important conversations within and outside those congregations. Equally gripping is Kaunfer’s own story of initial resistance to encounters with the Divine, and his eventual immersion into a passionately religious path of Jewishness.”
—Sylvia Barack Fishman, chair, Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and professor of contemporary Jewish life, Brandeis University; author, The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness
“A roadmap to the future. His incisive understanding of the mindset of early twenty-first-century Jews (especially young ones) informs this accessible and eloquent treatise on building resonant, inspired communities. Kaunfer argues persuasively that transformations in contemporary culture mandate changes in Jewish communal and spiritual structures—and that such innovations have always been integral to the evolution of the Jewish people.”
—Felicia Herman, executive director, The Natan Fund
“Accessible yet sophisticated…. The practical suggestions about worship are valuable not only to the world of independent minyanim but to synagogue minyanim and sanctuary services as well…. Will challenge both those who want to follow in Kaunfer’s footsteps and those who disagree with him.”
—Rabbi David A. Teutsch, Wiener Professor of Contemporary Jewish Civilization at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; editor, Kol Haneshamah Prayerbook series; author, Spiritual Community: The Power to Restore Hope, Commitment and Joy
“Practical, highly readable…. Read this book to understand the spiritual impulses of a generation of seekers who are not ready to give up tradition and not ready to give up on their own empowerment within Judaism either.”
—Dr. Erica Brown, author, Spiritual Boredom: Rediscovering the Wonder of Judaism and Inspired Jewish Leadership: Practical Approaches to Building Strong Communities
“Takes us on an inspiring insiders’ guided tour of the new independent minyan phenomenon, which is rejuvenating the Jewish landscape. Egalitarian, joyous, upbeat, participatory, spiritually alive—no wonder young people find a home in the minyanim! Enjoy this testimony to the vitality of Jewish life and the enthusiasm of young people to make it their own.”
—Rabbi Marcia Prager, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal; author, The Path of Blessing: Experiencing the Energy and Abundance of the Divine
“Essential reading for anyone interested in twenty-first-century life of Jewish prayer, study, and community…. A great read and a wonderful contribution to the Jewish bookshelf.”
—Riv-Ellen Prell, professor of American studies, University of Minnesota; author, Prayer and Community: The Havurah in American Judaism
"Rabbi Elie Kaunfer offers...an informed view of a growing, grassroots movement seeking to create and foster vibrant Jewish life."
—The Jewish Week