Shaare Emeth hosts Selichot with top-notch musicians

So Is Life

So Is Life features Josh Nelson, Ellen Dreskin, Rosalie Will and Dan Nichols. The group will perform a Selichot concert at Shaare Emeth on Sept. 21. Photo: So Is Life website, www.bdnandn.com/

It might be easier to ask for forgiveness and head into the Jewish new year after you have heard a group of talented musicians on Sept. 21 at Congregation Shaare Emeth.

The Reform synagogue is hosting a Selichot (prayers of repentance) service with the national group So Is Life, featuring Cantor Rosalie Will, Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Josh Nelson and Dan Nichols.

Shaare Emeth Cantor Seth Warner will also participate in the service, and he spoke with the Jewish Light about his excitement for the event:  

Could you describe the Selichot program?

Selichot is traditionally a week or the Saturday before Rosh Hashanah. The word ‘Selichot’ comes from slicha, which is to apologize, to be sorry. And that Saturday evening is focused on looking inward at one’s self and figuring out who I am, what do I need to be sorry for, what my strengths are, what my possibilities for next year might be based on what I did this year, things done, and things left undone. 

And so this year at Shaare Emeth, we have the opportunity to celebrate Selichot in both a service and a concert mixed together with four of the most talented, amazing musicians, storytellers and teachers of our time. 

Our program asks us to look at the reflection of ourselves and so it’s entitled, “Making the old new and the new holy,” preparing ourselves for a truly new year.

What makes these musicians so special?

Dan Nichols is one of a very small handful of people who is actively changing and actively composing Jewish music with tremendous forethought and tremendous meaning. He’s a musical genius.

Josh Nelson coordinates music for the [Union of Reform Judaism Biennial Conference], so you know what kind of level he is on. His ability with instruments is off-the-charts. He’s a talented composer, a brilliant performer, but his ability with instruments — guitar, piano —is just beautiful.

Cantor Ellen Dreskin brings a true sense of heymish thoughtfulness, spirituality. She is really down-to-earth and uses her voice to bring that sense of comfort into her music.

And Rosalie Will grew up at Shaare Emeth, was bat mitzvahed here. She was cantorial school classmates with me, and she brings this vitalized sense of energy, possibility in her voice, talent mixed with challenge and forethought and wisdom. 

What inspired Shaare Emeth to try something different this year?

One of the things that I love about working at Shaare Emeth is we are always looking to do something new. We don’t really do annual programs, we are always looking to something new. And this group called So is Life performs maybe two or three times together in a year and to get them is mostly a scheduling nightmare for the group. We were fortunate enough to have the forethought to say, ‘Let’s see what we can do.’ 

And so we floated some ideas with them, and they were all available, and it got us thinking about selichot and the High Holy Days. We thought, ‘What a better way to start off the High Holy Day season,’ which of course starts later than usual this year, and be able to really capitalize on the Selichot notion because Selichot is not something that a majority of our congregation participates in. We wanted to really try to change it up so that this might appeal to people who ordinarily wouldn’t participate in a Selichot experience. 

How different is this from past Selichot programs?

This program will be vastly different from anything you have experienced at Shaare Emeth before — however, there are going to be familiar elements to the Selichot program. Traditionally at Shaare Emeth, we have had a late-night service. This service is a little earlier than late night — 8 p.m. — and the service will include sort of focusing moments on light, so we will light candles. We have traditionally lit candles at the end of the service. The evening begins with Havdalah and goes through this idea of opening to one’s self, opening to one’s whole, true self and opening to others through the lens of teachings on the High Holy Days.


Selichot service with musical guest So Is Life

WHEN:   8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21

WHERE:  Congregation Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Road

MORE INFO: For more info, visit sestl.org