Chicago: Jazz, Chagall, Ethiopian Hebrews, and snowstorm

posted 13 Feb 2019, 14:47 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin   [ updated 16 Feb 2019, 11:43 ]

Where in the World is
Rabbi Eli

Jazz, Chagall, Ethiopian Hebrews, and snowstorm

Mark Chagall loved Chicago. In the mid-seventies, having come here to install the mosaics of the Four Seasons, he ended up creating also this gorgeous set of America's Windows for the Art Institute of Chicago (you may remember them from the hugely popular film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", produced 10 years later).

Have you seen his (probably most famous) stained glass work, the windows for Hadassah Ein Karem in Jerusalem? There are twelve of them, one for each tribe - just like in our Sanctuary. He made a number of those since, from Zurich to the UN building in New York. 
On a sales trip, I will typically (and counterintuitively) have more time for sightseeing than when on a travel project. And in the Windy City, no serious sightseeing can go without a night at a jazz club.
If you are also a jazz fan, enjoy the little musical video I shot for you. The Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman has been ripping the North American jazz scene ever since he moved to New York 15 years ago. 
The saxophone is Ben Wendell, it's his composition.

 There is quite a bit to be said about the Jewish architects' input into the development of Chicagoan famous art nouveau.
As we only have so much room here, (and I need to leave something for the next time I report from here,) I will tell you instead of the Synagogue I visited last Shabbat.

Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation is 100 years old. In its early days, it was seriously influenced by Rabbi W.A. Matthew, the founder of the Commandment Keepers and the bearer of the Black Hebrews movement' values and ideas in America.
The original Commandment Keepers congregation in West Harlem, NY fell apart due to inner conflict. The synagogue building was shut down and eventually sold; yet there are a number of Black Jewish congregations around, Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken probably the most influential among them - and the only one outside of New York, to my knowledge.

Majority - though not all - of its congregants are African American, and  Jewish either by ancestry or conversion.
The style of the unaffiliated congregation is "Conservadox"; separate sitting but no mechitzah, women will stand alongside the men and children on the Bimah. The singing is strong and deep, with many original tunes. 

The powerful, passionate sermons are delivered by Rabbi Capers Funnye (pronounced as foo-nay); born in a Methodist Christian family, he became Jew by choice in his late teens, and was later ordained as a Conservative Rabbi. He is very well known, widely respected and recognized for his welcoming and open attitude, outreach work, and passion for social justice.
His story is every bit as fascinating as the history of the movement, and the synagogue service is well worth a visit. Meanwhile, if Chicago is not part of your itinerary for the near future, feel free to roam the congregation's site: bethshalombz

Meanwhile, the blizzard jumbled up my so carefully-laid plans. By the time Chicago was willing to let planes take off again, Pearson airport shut down for arrivals. I still have a couple days to get home - so, hope to see you this Shabbat!

Shabbat Shalom,