As a child Susan Schrott was drawn to the textiles and fabrics she discovered while rummaging through her Grandmother's dresser drawers in Brooklyn. She would pull out stray strands of yarn and begin to knit and crochet with the help of both grandmothers. As a young teenager, while taking the D train from Brooklyn to Broadway to study at the School of American Ballet, she crocheted multicolored squares which evolved into large "quilts". At sixteen, she enrolled in her first "Singer" sewing workshop. It was during this period that she experimented with weaving on a large loom which she kept in her tiny Greenwich Village apartment. We are treated to Susan's Quilt entitled Dancing With Their Timbrels
"Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels. And Miriam chanted for them, 'Sing to Adonai.' " (Exodus 15:20-21)
Years ago, Julius Lester (I just read his book Why Heaven is Far Away to my son last night), a black Jew-by-choice, was asked why more blacks aren't converting to Judaism. He responded that it is due to that fact that most Jews lack a sense of joy in their Judaism.
After crossing the Red Sea from the darkness of Egypt, our ancestors had every reason to weep. But instead they sang and danced.
Many Jews today are searching for greater meaning, relevance, and accessibility in their worship. We have clergy blaming lay apathy, and lay people blaming clergy dullness.
And who is the victim? Shabbat: She is burdened with bearing all of our community's needs. If you want to mourn, heal, learn or participate, you go to Shabbat services.
In the old days, healing and participation took place during the Torah service on Saturday. Today, the bar mitzvah has swallowed Saturday morning worship. In the old days, during the initial seven days of mourning, you prayed at home, and you attended daily worship at synagogue when a loved one's yahrzeit fell, usually on a weekday. In the old days, there were other days to go than Shabbat to study Torah.
Today, in most Reform synagogues, all of these needs are supposed to be met on Friday night.
In addition, while some people prefer their Shabbat services to provide an individual experience of serenity, calm, and meditation, the primary value that Shabbat services present is the opportunity to worship and celebrate as a community.
My dream for our synagogues is that they generate more joy and celebration. If we all go to synagogue on a Friday night prepared to celebrate and rejoice, then we may someday match our black cousins by worshiping with energy and perhaps even with ecstasy.