Singer Elana Brody To Help Mark 5 Years Of TC Jewish Renewal Community

Despite formally being part of the national, organized, Jewish Renewal community for five years, the roots of the Twin Cities Jewish Renewal Community go back well before that – and are at synagogues across the area.

“You will find Jewish renewal people at the conservative and reform synagogues,” said Terry Gips, one of the leaders of the TCJRC. ”So when we have a gathering like this, all of them come back because they love Jewish renewal.”

The “this” Gips referred to is the 5th anniversary Shabbaton May 2-4, featuring Kohenet Elana Brody. There will be an interactive concert in partnership with the Minnesota JCC – Sabes Center Minneapolis on May 2, an erev Shabbat service on May 3 at Temple Israel, and a Shabbat service and healing-through-song-experience on May 4.

The founder of the Jewish Renewal movement is Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who had been a Lubavitch-trained rabbi before separating from the Chabad movement in the early 1960s, reportedly after his exposure to Eastern religion, medieval Christian mysticism, and LSD – experiences that helped drive some of what would become part of Jewish Renewal practice. Schacther-Shalomi was one of the founders of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, which has an ordination program to train clergy.

“Reb Zalman created it because everybody should feel great about Judaism and have a spiritual experience as part of that,” Gips said. “We don’t just want bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah factories, we want people that find meaning, that it touches all aspects of your life. And I think that’s why so many people are really drawn to renewal because it is not doctrinaire. It’s very open to experimentation. We have lots of great traditional liturgy and stuff, but we also are always open to new forms of prayer and connection.”

Brody is a student in the ALEPH ordination program. Sherry Stern, one of the local organizers, first heard her perform at an ALEPH event last summer.

“Her voice is like amazing; to me, it’s like an angel,” Stern said. “The spirituality she brings be, who she is, and how she performs is what is what caught my attention. We are excited to bring her here.”

Brody first connected with Schachter-Shalomi indirectly; she was in a band at her time in Boulder, Col., at Naropa University. She later learned that the rabbi held the World Wisdom Chair at the Buddhist-inspired school, which describes itself ecumenical and nonsectarian, promoting non-traditional activities like meditation to supplement traditional learning approaches.

Brody, who grew up in the least populated county east of the Mississippi River in rural western Virginia with “hippie, back-to-the-lander parents,” didn’t grow up Jewishly connected, but had moments of spirituality that pointed her in this direction.

“I started having more experiences where I just felt deeply connected,” Brody said. “I got these messages and signs that in order for me to be useful in the world, to be a healer, to be helpful with my musical gift it would actually have to be in tribe. And in order for me to do that I would actually have to learn what observant Judaism is, and what observant Jews do with their lives. I didn’t know anything.”

Brody is now in the Davening Leadership Training Institute part of the ordination process. She sees herself as someone who likes to merge song with tradition.

“I rest a lot of weight on how powerful and transformative singing in a group is,” she said. “But I also I also really love leaning into the tradition and how it how it was organized to hold a certain kind of structure of how prayer can really work. I don’t just lead songs, [but] it’s more like, we’re going on a we’re going on a little bit of a traditional Jewish journey, but with non-traditional and new songs.”

Brody said that as a singer-songerwriter, she has a myriad of influences, including Joni Mitchell Carole King, and Paul Simon.

“I intend to create a space that people leave feeling really nourished and uplifted,” she said. “I think the concert will also feel like a prayer space.”