Dan Israel. Photo by Steven Cohen

Take Me To Shul

You know those comically bad weeks?

The ones where:

  • Your new job, your dream job, is threatening to destroy your sanity and is entirely too overwhelming
  • Several of your family members get admitted to the hospital
  • Your love life is on the rocks
  • You haven’t slept in… forever
  • You’re not getting along with the family members that aren’t in the hospital
  • You haven’t seen your friends in weeks it seems
  • Your cat misses you
  • You have a small surgical procedure, and then puke on your doctor when it’s done
  • Oh yeah, and it’s finals week and you’re a nontraditional student.

That kind of week?

The one where you end up sobbing between two garbage dumpsters in the rain?

Just me then? That’s okay, we’ve all at least had bad weeks. Comically bad weeks. Shabbat, I’m certain, was made for times like this to disconnect, decompress and just breathe.

Full disclosure: I am not the world’s most observant Jew. I am covered in tattoos and I love bacon.

You can imagine it came as a surprise to me on the night I most needed a Shabbat service, I’d get Dan Israel as my impromptu rabbi, in a dirty dive bar laying into a musical sermon followed by The Johns a John Lennon tribute band acting as a cantor.

Drunken crowd member: “HEY JEW!”

Dan Israel: “You can just call me Dan.”

Sometimes, I guess, you can find spirituality in rock and roll.

Other disclosure: I had never heard of Dan Israel, and it was The Johns’ debut. I had no idea what I was in for.

I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and felt ragged when Dan Israel started the set with “Some Time”. For a second before I turned around to see him, I thought Bob Dylan could have quite likely been playing; Israel’s folksy, scratchy, earthy voice and warm electric guitar wrapped me like a tallis. I was immediately energized, I was immediately engaged, and for the first time in weeks I felt present.

He made quick succession through “Counting on You,” “Cold, Cold Winter,” and “Dark Corner.” I was an entirely new person by the time he covered The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek.” He wound his magic the growing crowd of Dan Israel fans wove and bobbed in their seats and on the floor.

Dan Israel spoke directly to my Jewish soul through a mix of his own moving folk songs, sprinkled with classics covers from my some of my favorite bands was challah for my soul.

Wearing cowboy boots and easy concentration, Dan Israel spoke directly to my Jewish soul through a mix of his own moving folk songs, sprinkled with classics covers from my some of my favorite bands. His version of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Listen to Her Heart” wasn’t an artistic masterpiece, but it was challah for my soul – a skillful rendition, and one he and his band of seasoned Twin Cities musicians played happily, blissfully, and with that same passion all the musicians played with that night – music and performance are the foundation of who they are and how they best communicate.

The Johns took the stage and kept up the energy opening with “Instant Karma!” and I bounced and sang along, cause we all shine on… like the moon and… well you know how the song goes. The Shabbat Queen arrived, I’m certain of it, during “Woman.” Israel climbed back on stage in his cowboy boots to help out with “The Ballad of John and Yoko” and “Rocky Raccoon.”

“Rocky Raccoon” moved me. Proof that you can find God in your favorite songs and in good company in the most unexpected of places.

This wasn’t a formal “Jewish Event” no one talked about God or the Torah it just was a local show where a ton of the musicians happened to be Jewish… and at least one of the audience members. But tucked in the dim glow of Lee’s Liquor Lounge with a velvet painting of Elvis adorning the wall and a cheap Nordeast Tallboy in my hand, I found a little peace, a connection with the universe that surrounded me, not some series of unfortunate events.

Dan Israel will be doing a mini residency at the Fulton Brewing taproom in June, every Sunday from 3-5 p.m. You’ll be able to find me there.

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]This article was made possible in part with support from the Howard B. & Ruth F. Brin Jewish Arts Endowment, a fund of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s Foundation, and Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council, an initiative of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.[/box]

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Tanith Broom is a healthcare and academic professional, and a nontraditional student majoring in Public Health. When she grows up she’d like to focus on humanitarian relief and development. She loves science, music, art, movies, beer, sports, nerdy stuff and explosions. Rugby is her favorite because it incorporates all of these things. She makes matzo ball soup better than your Bubbie.