It's amazing how a few little words can make all the difference.
On Wednesday, I met one-on-one with Eli Schliefer, the head of the cantorial program on this campus. I was nervous to meet with him, as he is considered to be a sort of "god" around here, but he was a lovely person to chat with and sing for. He asked me all sorts of questions, from my Judaic background to my musical background to my family life. He then made me sing for him, the part I was most nervous about. I was worried about singing for him; at my voice lesson the previous day, we tweaked my singing to try to find a placement that doesn't go naturally sharp. We succeeded, though it's still very fresh and I'm not sure if it will stick (ask me about it later if you're interested...let's just say the new sound is, for now, a return to my mezzo days.) I was scared to sing off pitch for him, but I was just as scared to sing with the new voice for him because it's not yet truly mine. I ended up singing Avinu Malkenu and Ben Steinberg's Shalom Rav (mostly because that's all I could think of to sing at the time) and while neither were perfect, neither were terrible either. He coached me through them, told me I have a truly lovely voice, and to stop worrying about everything. He said he knows I will be fine.
Everyone has been telling me that, yet I didn't truly believe it until Eli said so. Weird, huh?
In other news, 2 very exciting things happened on Thursday. The first was a 4am (yep, you read that right) Sephardic Slichot service. Slichot is a series of poems we recite in the time before the High Holy Days that help us to "cleanse" ourselves in preparation for Rosh Hashana. In Ashkenazi tradition (Jews that come from Eastern Europe), Slichot is performed the Saturday night before Rosh Hashana. However, in Sephardic tradition (Jews that come from Spain, Morocco, etc.), Slichot begins on the first day of Elul, a month on the hebrew calendar, and continues every morning until the day before Rosh Hashana. It is said that prayer is more powerful between midnight and dawn, which is why the services are typically very early in the morning.
The service was held at a beautiful shul on French Hill. It was Orthodox, which meant there was a women's section on the upper balcony, guarded by a mechitza, or "wall" that blocks the men from seeing the women (and the women from seeing the service.) The service sounded very interesting, especially because the prayers and poems were read by different people in the community, and a shofar was blown at different times throughout the service.
After the service, we had morning prayers on Mount Scopus, overlooking Jerusalem. We were literally staring at the Old City the whole time, which was very cool. We finished services, resisted the urge to adopt the 3 adorable stray kittens that tried to follow us onto the bus (literally), and came home around 7am. Of course I came home and slept for a few hours after that.
Then, Thursday night, we had the annual Beit Cafe, or talent show. This year's theme was "UlProm", partially to celebrate the fact that we have 2 days of ulpan left, and partially because everyone loves prom. While I decided not to perform (too much stress in the preceding week, and I figured everyone was going to hear me sing a million times this year), I thoroughly enjoyed listening to and watching everyone else. Highlights of the evening include: PJ's stand up comedy routine (about his unfortunate incident with an Israeli jail), a fun dance to "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls, and the end of the evening, where Lauren and Marc did the dance at the end of Dirty Dancing. It was awesome, and at the end we all got up and danced and had a wonderful time. Major props to the UlProm committee for putting together such a fun evening!
This weekend we've been partaking in a Shabbat themed Shabbaton. It's been good, even though we've had to be at HUC for our entire weekend. I had the chance to do some one-on-one text study with my friend Brad, which was a pleasure and very insightful into the world of Shabbat. We also had a lovely service last night, where the cantorial students sang Danny Mesang's Elohai N'tzor. It was very special for me, as that piece is not only beautiful but one that I sang a few times in the months and weeks before I left for HUC. It was really nice to come together as a group to sing it; I've been feeling a bit disconnected from the other cantorial students in the past few weeks, so it was great to work as a group and to find my place. It wasn't as fun as singing it with Linda and Rabbi Feder, but it was definitely a very close second :)
Tonight is a walking tour of Rechavia (a neighborhood I kind of live in...people debate whether I live in Rechavia or the "HUC" neighborhood...I don't really know) and Havdallah at Rabbi Na'amah Kelman's house. Rabbi Kelman is not only the person in charge of the year-in-Israel program, but she was the first woman rabbi to be ordained in Israel, which is very significant to the Progressive Jewish movement. She is wonderful and an inspiration to all of the women (and maybe even some of the guys) here.
OK, hebrew homework calls, so I must go. 3 more days of ulpan! Where did summer go??? Much love!