One of the ways to thank God for blessings, says Rabbi Ilan Acoca, is through singing. Shabbat Shira, which takes place Jan. 23, tells of the Israelites breaking into song as a way to thank God for the parting of the sea during the Exodus.
“Traditionally, it’s a special Shabbat,” said Acoca, spiritual leader of Beth Hamidrash, Vancouver’s only Sephardi congregation. “Obviously, there’s a lot of liturgy in our
Judaism, depending on the background that we have, there’s a lot of music. On this particular Shabbat, there is even more music and more liturgy and, therefore, it makes a special Shabbat.”
To mark the occasion, Beth Hamidrash is organizing Shabbaton Shabbat Shira: East Meets West, which will celebrate the different musical approaches among Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews. Cantor Yaacov Orzech of Schara Tzedeck Synagogue will bring the Ashkenazi flavor. The West Coast Andalusian Ensemble, an ad hoc group of Vancouver and Los Angeles musicians coming together for the first but maybe not the last time, will celebrate the Sephardi traditions.
“The idea is that often we look at our differences as Jews and our backgrounds,” Acoca said. “Music brings people together, so the idea behind it is definitely to bring the beauty of both Ashkenazi and Sephardi music, but it’s more than that. We unite the community and show them that, yes, we may have our differences in background and our philosophy and so on and so forth, but we are one people. Therefore, we thought that the best way of doing it, rather than to give speeches about unity, which rabbis often do, we thought the best way was to put speeches aside and concentrate on the music.”
Acoca credits Orzech for coming up with the idea, but it is something that used to happen among congregations in Montreal, where Acoca grew up.
Shabbaton Shabbat Shira: East Meets West takes place Jan. 22, 4:35 p.m., services followed by Kabbalat Shabbat then dinner, 6 p.m., and a lecture by Rabbi Acoca on Discovering the Richness of Sephardi Liturgy ($18; $10 for kids 6-12, free for 5 and under): reserve by Jan. 20. Jan. 23, 9 a.m., services with Kol Simcha Singers and sermon on The Power of a Song, musaf led by Cantor Orzech, lunch with Sephardi and Ashkenazi delicacies. Jan. 23, 8 p.m., music celebration with Acoca, Orzech and West Coast Andalusian Ensemble, with Sephardi refreshments – suggested donation $10.