Earlier this week, the Jewish manager of the San Francisco Giants made news by becoming the first manager in Major League Baseball to join team members in “taking a knee.”  The story was widely reported in secular and Jewish media.

In a statement to ESPN, Kapler said, “I wanted [the team] to know that I wasn't pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality, and I told them I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities as well. So I told them that I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we've handled racism in our country. I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with our clear systemic racism in our country, and I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decisions, and we would respect and support those decisions. I wanted them to feel safe in speaking up.”

Major League players and coaches are taking stands for causes they care about in various ways.  A few weeks ago, MLB players joined athletes from 12 sports leagues in replacing their “famous names” with names of doctors, nurses, EMTs and other health professionals on the backs of their jerseys.  Two high profile players, Yankees' Aaron Judge and the Brewers' Christian Yelich, participated, with Judge's jersey featuring the name of RN Stephanie Pantelidis, who, according to the Yankees' Twitter, “is a dedicated first-year ER nurse in NYC. After six straight night shifts, she inquired about working at drive-thru testing sites on her day off.”

Yelich replaced his name on his jersey with Dr. Dave Margolis. “I know it's been a difficult few months for you guys, a lot of long hours away from your family, but you're making a difference — you're saving lives. You're the real hero for all you do for the kids and their families in this difficult time. Keep up the great work, you're doing an awesome job, and we're all behind you.”

Athletes are high profile people and important role models.  When they do the right thing, like standing up for causes they believe in, acknowledging the hard work of front line workers, wearing masks in public, and more, people take notice.

And baseball can use some good PR these days.  Just a few months ago, it was unclear if there would even be a baseball season this year.  Many thought players and owners were behaving selfishly, with players demanding millions to play this season, and owners looking to make as much money as possible.

What if teams took a page form the Jewish play book?  At each weekday service, the gabbai or a young child walks the aisles of the shul with a tzedakah (charity) box, and people put in coins and dollar bills.  What if MLB followed this example?   Players would line up for the National Anthem and the manager would come out with a tzedakah box in his hand—and walk up to each player, subtlety encouraging each to put some coins, or bills in the pushke.  I know there are health and safety issues with handling money, and it is unlikely that, in the days of Venmo and Zelle, any player handles actual money. 

But, do the math:  there are 30 MLB teams, each with 26 men. And they will play 60 games.  If each player gave $1 per game, they could collect $46,800.  Ideally, they would collect more.  After all, we are dealing with some pretty wealthy players.  The minimum salary for 2019 was $555,000, and it was scheduled to be $563,500 for 2020.

Then, teams could play the famous “allocations game.”  They could decide as a team where the money should go.  Perhaps to support important causes in their local communities—for example, organizations addressing hunger, racism and anti-Semitism.  What a bonding experience this would be for the players.  And such good role modeling for their admiring fans!

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It is after 10 pm on the east coast and we just finished back to back Tikvah events—first, our twice a week Virtual Voc Ed Training and Socializing program for 45 participants from across our camps, followed by Shira and Rikud hosted by song and dance leaders from Ramah Ojai.  The late east coast start times allows Tikvah participants across the country to participate.   What a joy to see our Tikvah community having a great time, meeting new friends and celebrating Tikvah at 50.

Last week, my National Ramah and National Ramah Tikvah Network colleagues and I worked hard to put together a mailing announcing events to mark Tikvah at 50 and ADA at 30.  We had no idea how well received these events would be!

I have proudly been working with Tikvah, the disabilities inclusion program of Camp Ramah, almost continuously since 1984.   While there have been so many wonderful and proud moments over the years, I sometimes forget just how much Tikvah has benefited participants, alum, families, Tikvah staff members and the larger Ramah community.  This came through loud and clear last night in our panel discussion on “Jewish Journeys: Tikvah's Role in the Jewish Disability Narrative.”

I started the evening by speaking briefly about the history of Tikvah, and paid tribute to our visionary founders, Herb and Barbara Greenberg.  My colleague, Audra Kaplan, spoke about how camp is a place which helps people—with and without disabilities- develop their Jewish Identities.   She also reflected on what our camp community would look like if there were no staff or campers with disabilities. 

Then, panelists consisting of alum, parents, staff members from Tikvah and other divisions, a Tikvah director who has worked at 3 Ramah camps, spoke about Ramah’s impact on their children’s Jewish identity, what it means to be included in the Jewish community, and how the rest of the camp community benefits by having Tikvah in camp. 

As I listened to everyone speak, I was kvelling, like a proud parent.  I am proud that Tikvah was the pioneer in inclusive camping, and I am proud that we continue to evolve.  Our camps have robust camping programs, vocational training programs, Israel programs, Tikvah Family camps, and we hire graduates of our programs as salaried staff members.

During the coming week, I will try to highlight some exciting aspects of Tikvah.  For now, I’d like to share how proud I am that we are always growing and evolving and pushing ourselves to do even better.  Last evening was our first event where we had both an ASL interpreter and a person doing live captioning.  The ASL interpreter made it possible for a deaf parent of a Tikvah camper to participate.  More importantly, perhaps—it sends a message about how inclusive Ramah strives to me.  While this particular deaf parent would have been happy with only the ASL interpreter, we decided to also have it captioned.  This is a useful tool for people who are deaf, but also for people not only for some deaf people, but for people who prefer written text, as a learning tool.  

We are doing our best to push ourselves to be even more inclusive, and to employ best practices.  I am proud to be part of an organization which is 50 years old, and still strives to do even better!  Happy 50th Tikvah and let’s recognize the ADA at 30!

I wrote a piece for ejewishphilantropy on this topic today!  

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During these tough times, it is especially important to celebrate happy occasions.  That is why invitations to celebrate Zoom and occasional in person brisses and baby namings, b’nai mitzvahs and weddings have been so meaningful.

Tomorrow, the Ramah Camping Movement embarks on a week of events which mark two historical events:  Tikvah at 50 and the ADA at 30.   

The Tikvah Program has been including campers with disabilities at Ramah camps since 1970.  We began to celebrate this milestone in 2019 in Jerusalem at the start of our last Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hike; to kick off the ride and hike, we honored Tikvah’s founders, Herb and Barbara Greenberg.  We had hoped to continue the festivities with an event at Camp Ramah in New England this summer. Instead, we will continue on Zoom tomorrow evening, when we also mark the 30th anniversary of the passage of the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush. It is a civil rights law which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations. Ironically, religious entities like synagogues are completely exempt from Title III of the ADA. All of their facilities, programs, and activities, whether they are religious or secular in nature, are exempt.

At Ramah, people with disabilities participate in all aspects of camp—camping and vocational training programs, they serve as staff members, and they attend Israel programs.  The impact of Ramah on campers, family members, staff and the entire Ramah community is extraordinary.

Tomorrow night, we kick off our special week with “Jewish Journeys: Tikvah's Role in the Jewish Disability Narrative”—it will focus on the growth and impact of Ramah’s Tikvah programs over the past fifty years, through the lens of Tikvah alumni, parents, staff, and community members.  There is still time to register:

We will also be singing and dancing in celebration of Tikvah, viewing movie clubs and discussing disabilities inclusion, and more.

Keep an eye for special events in celebration of ADA at 30—start your search here, on the ADA Anniversary website!

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This has been a very tough five months for lovers of live music, for artists and for anyone connected with the music industry, including roadies, sound and light engineers, ushers, food and merch vendors and anyone who owns a food establishment near a concert venue.   The disappearance of live music happened so abruptly!

The last big concert to take place in NYC before Covid-19 struck was “The Brothers:  Celebrating 50 Years of the Allman Brothers Band” at Madison Square Garden.   Warren Haynes shared the story of the shift from great live music to “limited” music to no music in “The Power of Live” (June 2020) issue of Relix Magazine.

 Two days after the packed MSG show, Haynes, Jackson Browne, Dave Matthews and others played the Love Rocks NYC benefit concert at the Beacon Theater in NYC—before a small audience of family and friends—due to coronavirus concerns.  That was it—no more live music.  So sad. 

I know that feeling of disappointment.  I was supposed to attend some of the much anticipated shows celebrating Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh ‘s 80th birthday at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester March 13 – 15, and I was planning on seeing several Dead and Co shows this summer. 

Admittedly, some musicians have done their best to make their live music available to fans during these tough times.    Each week, fans enjoy Phish’s “Dinner and a Movie,” Weir Wednesdays (Bob Weir and the Wolf Brothers), Dave Matthews Band (also on Wednesdays), Moe, String Cheese Incident, Dead and Co (Saturday nights) and more. There are many free weekly concerts offered online.

And some musicians have gotten very creative—Ben Folds performed each Saturday night for about 13 weeks from a rented apartment in Sydney, Australia.  Holly Bowling has performed The Living Room Sessions regularly, where she plays whole sets of Dead and Phish shows.  And there are others.

Trey Anastasio of Phish was asked if he and his band would consider playing a show on Zoom, where he, Fish, Page and Mike are in separate “squares.”   He dismissed it.  He speaks frequently of just how much the musicians and audience play off of each other.  He even pointed out in the Relix issue and in interviews that he drives his band crazy by never knowing what song he will open with—he waits to “feel” the vibe of the crowd before deciding.

So, what is it about live music that makes it so important—and magical—for fans and performers?  Obviously, on a practical level, performing live is a big part of how musicians and their crews pay the bills. But the live music experience is so much more than a financial transaction between performers and fans.

Most performers love what they do, they give it their all each night, and they play off the electricity of their fans.   This is what keeps musicians like Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Pete Townsend performing in to their 70s and even 80s.

In the aforementioned Relix issue, Don Was, president of Blue Note records, a famed producer and bass player who has played with Bob Weir and Jay Lane in the Wolf Brothers, looks at live music’s draw “in both scientific and mystical terms.”  He notes, “There’s a body of work that establishes how live music creates social bonding and a wave of synchronicity.  There’s a lot of research that indicates we experience greater enjoyment in the presence of live music and by being part of a larger group.  A lot of it just has to do with dancing, which is why it transcends genres…I think any body movement encodes emotional information and, when you experience that with others, there are social consequences.  You establish a rapport, a sense of community—people like each other more, they trust each other more, and they cooperate more.” 

He goes on to say, “There’s something about the presence of the performer in the room that makes a difference.  …it’s a sense that the audience has the ability to influence the performance…. everyone gets swept away, and I see it as a spiraling tornado.”  

I think Don Was hits the nail on the head—and he helps us understand just WHY we are missing live music so much.  It is the shared experience, the all-in-it-together feeling, the job, the swaying and dancing.  We are all missing these experiences of connecting with other music lovers, and with the musicians themselves. 

On one hand, the return to any in person still feels very far off. How will it possible for tens of thousands to pack MSG for a Springsteen concert, or LockN or Coachella for a music festival?  And we know how smaller clubs are suffering—it is nearly impossible to practice social distancing in a small space, and club owners will never make a profit if the venue is not packed.  On the other hand, there are some promising signs ahead. 

Check out the City Winery Outdoor Concert Series an hour north of Manhattan, featuring Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Martin Sexton, Joan Osborne and others. They are following strict safety guidelines:

All guests are required to complete a contactless temperature check and wellness questionnaire prior to entrance, masks or face coverings are required when entering and moving throughout public areas where social distancing is not possible, and seating will be by pods.  [“We are no longer seating unaffiliated parties together.  As such, tickets for this show will be sold for a single pod seating 2, 4, 8 or 10 people- select the appropriate group size for you and your companions.  You're welcome to take off your mask in your pod.”]

And LockN, originally scheduled for June, is still moving ahead in Arrington, VA, from October 2nd-4th.  They will also be following New Safety Policies, including masks, social distancing, cashless transactions, health screenings, and extra handwashing and sanitation stations.

Live music is SO important—for fans and musicians. We tip our hats to the musicians who continue to share live music online for their fans, and to City Winery, LockN and others who are doing the best to safely reunite fans and musicians.

See you at the show!


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