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Week 22: "Bit by Bit, Putting it Together"

Daniel Barash

Last week I was lucky enough to attend an intensive leadership conference called Song Leader Boot Camp (SLBC). For two-and-a-half days, over 200 folks from around the country converged on St. Louis, MO, to learn, share, pray, and make music together. Celebrating its seventh year, I was part of the first ever PJ Library track. Thus, in addition to regular conference offerings, I was able to delve deeply into learning more about Harold Grinspoon’s literary initiative, which sends over 120,000 Judaic-inspired titles every month to families around the nation (and beyond).

While I initially didn’t know what to expect from the experience, it didn’t take long for me to reacquaint myself with the power of song, and how it touches both mind and heart in strong and profound ways. After the first day, I decided to challenge myself to write a song while there…but what would it be about? It didn’t take long to settle on one idea: “Challah-it-Forward!” Why not write a “song story,” telling the “Challahs in the Ark” folktale through music. Starting at 8 AM, after shuttling from the hotel to the conference venue, I wrote furiously throughout the day, until at 4 PM, I found myself plucking out the last line.

What to do next? Perform it for lots of folks at SLBC Late Night, of course! This nightly showcase, in which conference participants have exactly four minutes to share something musical with peers, was a highlight of the retreat, as it afforded the opportunity for folks to try out new works and be supportive of others. Luckily, I had the incomparable (and dear friend of 15 years) Shira Kline backing me up with guitar and harmonies.

Devon Kelley-Yurdin's artistic world.

Devon Kelley-Yurdin's artistic world.

While still in its early stages, the song elicited wonderful feedback, and the seed of an idea appeared; why not spread the message of “Challah-it-Forward” by recording the song, and then creating an accompanying illustrated book?! But who would design the artwork? Interestingly, the very next night I received an email from Devon Kelley-Yurdin, an amazing papercut artist I’ve known for a few years, asking if I had any ideas of folks who might be interested in collaborating on projects together. Go figure! I called her the following morning, and she is going to do some prelimininary designs for a couple of the spreads.

Though we haven’t had rain in California for six weeks, I think I can say that creatively speaking, when it rains, it pours! Stay tuned for updates, and maybe soon, a new musical track on the blog!

An added conference bonus--reconnecting with long-time Camp Ramah friend Elisa Heiligman-Recht!

An added conference bonus--reconnecting with long-time Camp Ramah friend Elisa Heiligman-Recht!