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Concert finds harmony between shul, school
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Concert finds harmony between shul, school

Craig Taubman to sing at fund-raiser for SSDS, Congregation Beth El

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Craig Taubman, cocreator of the Conservative movement’s Friday Night Live service, will perform in concert at Congregation Beth El in South Orange on Nov. 21.
Craig Taubman, cocreator of the Conservative movement’s Friday Night Live service, will perform in concert at Congregation Beth El in South Orange on Nov. 21.

Jewish musician Craig Taubman will headline an uncommon collaboration between a synagogue religious school and the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union in West Orange.

Proceeds of Taubman’s Nov. 21 family concert at Congregation Beth El in South Orange will benefit the two institutions. Seventy percent will go to the synagogue’s religious school, the Jewish Learning Center, the remainder to SSDS.

Beth El may be the first synagogue to host such a joint fund-raiser, said Aviva Gutnick, a Beth El member and Schechter parent who is chairing the concert.

“It’s really symbolic,” she said. “We want to show that we think Schechter is important to our community, to our members, and to our member families. At the same time, supporting our own religious school is a no-brainer,” she said.

Such a joint school-synagogue undertaking is a first for Schechter as well.

Gutnick estimated that at least 30 Beth El families send their children to the Conservative day school.

“We hope to inspire other congregations to do the same thing. We want to show that we support Jewish education for all our kids, whether they go to a synagogue Hebrew school or to Schechter,” Gutnick said.

Singer/songwriter Taubman, together with Rabbi David Wolpe, created Friday Night Live at Sinai Temple, a Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles. The musical service, which can draw some 2,000 young adults for a night of prayer, song, and dance, has been adapted by congregations across the country.

Taubman has also recorded 11 albums of Jewish children’s music.

“It will be nice to expose a new generation to his music,” said Gutnick. “He’s a real bridge between traditional and contemporary music, and he makes the traditional liturgy and prayers accessible. It’s really fun music to listen to.”

Taubman will be joined onstage by an interfaith choir led by singer-songwriter Peri Smilow, who lives in South Orange, as well as by students in the Beth El Youth Chorale and its JLC.

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