Kabbalat Shabbat these last weeks - an Interview with Vered Avidan
בינה בפייסבוק בינה באינסטגרם צרו קשר עם בינה במייל

Kabbalat Shabbat these last weeks – an Interview with Vered Avidan

 Kabbalat Shabbat these last weeks –

an Interview with Vered Avidan

Vered Avidan is the artistic director of BINA’s Education Department musical ensemble. Vered is a singer, actor, and creator in the theater world and has performed in Israel and abroad in musical and theatrical performances and festivals. 

This week, Vered talks with Marcie Yoselevsky, External Relations Associate at BINA, about leading Kabbalat Shabbat these last weeks.

MY: You have been leading Kabbalat Shabbat for many years and under many circumstances. How has the experience been different since October 7th? Has your experience in Kabbalat Shabbat events changed, or your preparation for it changed?

VA: There is no question that it is all harder now – both in preparing and leading Kabbalat Shabbat events. It is more difficult but also more important than ever. It is challenging to motivate myself to prepare and I find that I need to remind myself each week that it will be good for me and for the participants. I keep reminding myself that we all need this and that the preparation and leading, along with the participants’ experience, are all part of the healing process. I know the music and the words that we sing go to the soul and I know that the healing this brings is contagious in the best way. I know there is a beautiful ripple effect initiated. And even knowing all of this, it is still hard. Something has changed and the Kabbalat Shabbat experience itself is different. We had to look at all of the songs and stories to consider how they sound and feel at this moment in time. Many songs and texts feel wrong and out of tune with the moment. We chose new music, new songs, and new stories that meet us where we are – seeking light and hope in times of pain and mourning. 

Leading a community gathering now takes great sensitivity to the mood in the space. Planning and preparation means being able to adapt in the moment. I always ask myself, “What do people need? Are they in the right mindset for happiness and dancing? Do they need the kids to help them open up to dancing? Are they wanting something more spiritual and free or more logical and rational? Should we take our time, explaining and talking about things as we go, moving more slowly, or is it time for a faster rhythm?” At each moment we musicians need to be carefully in sync with each other as we consider even more questions,  “Should we clap or not? Should we sing in the style of a piyut (a poem of prayer) or with a more energetic rhythm?” We bring the same questions and sensitivities when thinking about what stories to tell. 

Sometimes the experience takes shape through collaboration by asking the group what they need at that moment. Last week, I planned to sing Lu Yehi by Naomi Shemer. When it came time to start the song, I wasn’t sure as it didn’t feel like what the group needed. I asked them if they needed music or a story, and they chose a story. As it happened, after the story we sang. They needed the story as a bridge to get there. 

MY: Are there moments or encounters from the past weeks that stood out for you?

VA: Last week, we led two powerful gatherings. On Thursday evening, we led Kabbalat Shabbat over Zoom for an elementary school from the area surrounding Gaza. This Zoom meeting was the first full school gathering since October 7th.

Our Kabbalat Shabbat opened with songs led by the principal. After this, I asked if any teachers wanted to greet the students. It was very emotional to see teachers speaking to their students from their hotel rooms in Eilat, at the Dead Sea, or from relatives’ homes around the country. Similarly, the students were staying in different locations around the country. They were so excited to connect and engage. Everyone was excited to participate, especially when we opened up the meeting for the children to share what they had been up to for the past week. Children had found moments of joy in mid-week slumber parties, being allowed extra candy, and meeting new friends in their hotels as they got to know other children who were evacuated from their homes. 

One of the teachers lit candles, and a  father and daughter led Kiddush. After this, I spoke about the challah and its symbolism – that challah turns our attention to what is good and gives us a place and time to be appreciative and to be thankful. I asked students to write in the chat the things for which they were feeling thankful. Here, the answers were jarringly heavy. They were thankful that their family is alive. They were thankful that they are safe. 

The next day, on Friday, we led Kabbalat Shabbat at Kibbutz HaZore’a in Emek Yizrael. This community is hosting evacuees and our Kabbalat Shabbat brought together Kibbutz members as well as families who have been temporarily relocated to the Kibbutz. 

Kibbutz HaZore’a is special in many ways. One of them is that the Kibbutz is a Beit BINA, or a BINA local hub which is located on the Kibbutz. Events are hosted once a month. Shabbat is a central activity of this Beit BINA, with a self-organized Shabbat team who make challah and other shabbat preparations. It was moving to see one of the members of this team, who had been away in army reserves all week, come and join the Kabbalat Shabbat. He had such a short time to be home and with his family, and when we came to join the community, we really felt how much the community and shabbat are his home and a part of his family. 

Marcie Yoselevsky is a member of BINA’s External Relations team. Marcie moved to Israel three years ago. She has found and made her home in Tel Aviv. Marcie grew up in New London, Connecticut, and lived for many years in New York City, working in the Jewish and modern dance communities.

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