Summer Plans
May 27th 2015

There is a lot to enjoy in the summer. Aliza and I love to stay home. We spend hours puttering in our garden and begin every day with a cup of tea on our deck as we literally stop to smell the roses. It’s interesting to note that in Judaism, there is a special blessing for when you smell roses (different from the brakhot for fragrant herbs, different from that of aromatic fruits, and different from that of miscellaneous fragrances). So there we sit, enjoying these gifts from HaShem

When we’re home, we delight in having people over—at our Shabbat table, in our sukkah, any Yom Tov meal, or just to sit singing and schmoozing on a lazy summer afternoon. Home is comfort, home is familiar. It means friends, food, music and laughter.

In contrast to this, and what might seem incongruous to some, is that as much as we are homebodies, Aliza and I simply adore travel and seeing the world together. Aliza always says, “Put me on a plane and wake me when they’re speaking a different language!” We love our adventures—it almost doesn’t matter to where—and we love them even more when our friends are with us to share the experience. For us, travel also means friends, food, music and laughter.

Last summer Aliza and I led a Musical Journey to England and Normandy which was just spectacular. In previous years we have led tour groups to Poland, Eastern Europe, Germany and Israel. Each trip has been unique and special, broadening our horizons, teaching us not only about other cultures but about our place as Jews in relationship to those cultures. We develop an understanding of how we fit in, we learn our People’s history within these lands, we celebrate the music of the area while connecting with the local Jewish communities. Our greatest privilege is that we have been able to share these experiences with Toronto friends, old and new.

Many of you have asked if we’re leading a trip this summer. Not this summer. I’ll be writing new music, finishing some recordings and spending time in our garden with the roses. But summer 2016? Mark your calendar, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for an amazing and unforgettable experience….

In 2016 we’re heading to Spain! The Cantors Assembly, my fraternity, is the largest organization of cantors in the world. In 2009 we organized a historical mission to Poland (my first trip to the birthplace of my father) and in 2012 another one to Germany (my first trip to the birthplace of my mother). These Missions for Cantors and their congregants are life-changing, featuring daily and nightly musical performances while touring the sites and learning the history there.  

This trip to Spain is going to be phenomenal. The reason the Cantors Assembly doesn’t schedule a trip every year is that each one takes at least two to three years to plan. I’ve been to Spain before as a tourist and as a performer, but it will be a singular experience seeing Barcelona, Seville, Madrid and other cities with over 300 cantors and their congregants. The fascinating history of Spanish Jewry unfolds like the plot to a movie thriller: the traces of Jewish glory in the 1,000 years before the Inquisition, the Inquisition itself, the Expulsion, the tortures, the hiding, the evolution that leads to today’s Spanish Jewish communities.

As I write this, the Cantors Assembly is working to secure Stephen Berk for daily lectures. Professor Berk has been with us for all of the previous Cantors Assembly missions, and Beth Tzedec members know by now that he brings history to life and mesmerizes us with his presentations. The musical performances of the Mission are also in the final planning stages, and I can’t wait to tell you more details as they become confirmed.

So why am I telling you this now, over a year in advance? Because every time I lead a tour, inevitably more dozens of people approach me and tell me that they would have loved to join us but that their plans were already made by the time our trip was announced. So here you go—mark your calendars for July 3 to 14, 2016.  Join Aliza and me for our first information session in just a few weeks on Tuesday, June 23, to get all the exciting details.

There’s so much to see in this world. Let’s see it together!

I wish you a restful and joyous summer.