crying to the walls

Note: I updated this post on 12/21/11 with a photo that better illustrates it.

On Thursday night I went with my friend Noah to see singer-songwriter David Broza at Sixth & I Synagogue. It was an awesome night, not least because, since the concert was sponsored by the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and the Israeli Embassy, it was free! Noah first introduced me to Broza years ago, with the song “Crying to the Walls.”

As with most concerts at Sixth & I, Broza played in the sanctuary, on the bimah. Noah and I were in the balcony, looking down on the “stage.” I followed the lights that were coloring the wall behind Broza to the ark. Two nights ago, I had stood in front of the ark with the members of my adult b’nai mitzvah class while the rabbi explained the significance of its architecture.

david broza at sixth & i; photo courtesy of embassy of israel

And then I had a moment that made sound fade away and time slow down: I realized I was looking at a scene that perfectly expressed the confluence of the past, present, and future of Judaism. Thinking back, it seems so simple; I feel like this should have occurred to me before, at previous events. But of course, I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic recently.

The ark at Sixth & I holds four sefer Torahs, each of which had been hand-lettered by a scribe’s quill on pieces of animal skin that were stitched together into scrolls — as they have been created for generations. The features of the ark itself — the parokhet (curtain), ner tamid (eternal flame), menorot (candelabras), and ten commandments’ tablet — all have their roots in the first temple.

An Israeli, Broza himself presumably led to the search of attendees before the concert — byzantine security measures that have come to characterize any event in the United States having to do with the modern state of Israel. And he sang that night to a crowd of diaspora American Jews in Hebrew before the Israeli ambassador addressed the crowd.

Sixth & I is an unique space: a synagogue, turned church, almost turned nightclub, turned non-membership, non-traditional, non-denominational synagogue. It’s where young Jews connect to their Judaism in often non-religious ways. (I saw Ani diFranco in the same place six weeks earlier.) Attendance at its events continues to increase even while synagogue membership is down.

The ancient, the contemporary, and the world to come, all swirled together in a mix of rainbow lights and guitar strums and stained glass. I looked at the salmon-colored walls of the building and thought, “Remember this.”

Crying to the Walls

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