Local Musicians Debut New Blues-Rock ‘Shavua Tov Song’ For Havdalah

Local Jewish musicians have released new music for Havdalah titled “The Shavua Tov Song,” a brainchild of musician Lea Kalisch and Temple Israel’s Rabbi Tobias Moss.


The blues-rock jam is equally irreverent and introspective, joking about drinking cheap wine (or perhaps, not joking) while reflecting on how hard it is to escape the stress of a normal week: “Your mind is wandering, thinking about, the day after tomorrow / who will I be, what will I do, what trends am I going to follow.”

The song was originally written in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when, as Jewish life moved online, Kalisch and Moss did weekly Havdalah services over Zoom and Facebook live. 

To keep viewers engaged, they wrote a new song for Havdalah that they named The Shavua Tov Song. The lyrics poked fun at the universal experience of virtual programming: “There is no Havdalah song written for times like quarantine / so we thought we’d write our own, make sure you don’t turn off the screen.”

Kalisch and Moss debuted the song on the Zoom for Refugee Shabbat, an initiative to raise support and awareness from the refugee agency HIAS. Seeing people singing along, it felt like a hit.

Since then, the lyrics have been retooled to have less to do with the pandemic, and another version of the song, titled “The Shana Tova Song,” is now sung at Temple Israel’s Neilah service during Yom Kippur. Moss hopes “that the success of ‘The Shavua Tov Song’ video leads to a global recording of ‘The Shana Tova Song’ with many musicians and congregations participating from around the world,” he said.

The music video, published on Thursday, shows the recording of the song — sponsored by donors from Temple Israel in Minneapolis — at The Hideaway Studios in Northeast Minneapolis. 

Artists featured in the recording include JEWBALAYA, a New Orleans-klezmer crossover band with Kalisch, Moss, Rabbi Marcus Rubenstein of Temple of Aaron, drummer Jesse Simon, clarinetist Dan Perelstein, trombone player Erin Baldinger, and Jason Swalley on tuba.

Also involved were Sulia Rose Altenberg, a singer and actress involved in Six Points Theater; Sadie Stillman, a 14-year-old congregant at Temple Israel; Riv Shapiro, the arts & culture producer at the Minnesota JCC; Danny Tolchiner, a Temple Israel member and bass player; and Berek Awend, a keyboard and guitar player who is also part of a Jewish songwriting duo with his wife Amanda Awend.