Old Will Shakespeare was welcomed into the Big Jewish Tent for a Midsummer Night Shabbat on Friday evening. The Sabbath service of music, dance and prayer took place in nature’s cathedral, the S. Mark Taper Foundation Amphitheater at the TreePeople site, surrounded by forest in the Mullholland Hills.
It was the second big Jewish sponsored by the partnership of singer Craig Taubman’s Craig ‘n Co and the Shalom Institute, and the first in a planned series of Big Jewish Tent events designed to coincide with Jewish holiday celebrations.
“Our goal is to get people together from all different walks of life, old, young, blue, green, black, brown, rich, poor … and just say, ‘Hey, with all the doom and gloom it’s time for a little hope. It’s time to celebrate. It’s time to come into the tent,’ ” Taubman told me.
Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute, said of the joint venture, “Our mission is to create safe places to grow and explore Jewishly. Our goal is to leave no Jewish soul untouched.”
Watch the featured video to view the victuals and libations, the music and the merrymaking. Food and drink were provided by a host of popular Studio City and Sherman Oaks restaurants.
Breathtaking music and dance performances were coordinated by longtime Taubman collaborator, artistic director Stuart K Robinson. They included some stars you might recognize from stage and screen appearances. One of my favorite actresses, Charlayne Woodard, performed in spoken word and song. TV’s newest reality-show star, Sherman Oaks mani-pedi diva Katie Cazorla, was on hand to support her friend's sweets business.
Craig himself sang holy songs with Duvid Swirsky; Lisbeth Scott (whose voice can be heard on hundreds of movie soundtracks) sat barefoot on the stage and performed her otherworldly vocals and humming harmonium; and Kenneth Crouch played a piano solo that lifted me to another level. Dreadlocked Israeli singer Idan Raichel played in the dark (light cues, like the entertainment, were unscripted).
Dancers jammed with spoken-word artists, accompanied by Crouch's improvised riffs.
The Rev. Wilma Jakobsen of All Saints Church offered an evening prayer, and Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple delivered a brief and profound sermon. (He asked to remain off camera.)
The rabbi referred to a puzzling teaching he had read that said, “You do no work on Shabbat, not even on your soul,” and he thought, "But isn’t that exactly what Shabbat is for? To work on your soul?" Wolpe finally understood when he thought of how one learns to swim.
“The hardest part of learning to swim isn’t swimming, it’s floating,” he shared, “because to float you have to trust the water, and that’s hard to do. But, you know, if you go into the ocean and you float, the wave carries you higher than if you swim. So on Shabbat, part of the idea of not working is to trust the wave. Floating takes faith. So on Shabbat, don’t work on your soul. Just float. And you will go higher.”