Musical Shabbat gift from scholar-in-residence

By Ben Tinsley

RICHARDSON — Joey Weisenberg has been described as the greatest Jewish music educator on the planet.
Weisenberg, author of Building Singing Communities and creative director of the Hadar Center for Communal Jewish Music, will conduct a musical Shabbat as part of the Mark A. Siegel Scholar-in-Residence Weekend April 1-3 at Congregation Beth Torah, 720 W. Lookout Drive.
“I’m going to come here and meet people and we’re going to sing,” Weisenberg said during a Monday night phone interview. “I do not know how many there will be — just that it will be the right number.”
At Congregation Beth Torah, the multi-instrumentalist musician, singer, and composer will be leading services, leading singing, and teaching classes about the power of music — in partnership with Rabbi Elana Zelony and the shul.
Weisenberg is the author of Building Singing Communities, a how-to guide that focuses on unlocking the power of music in Jewish prayer.
He has performed and recorded internationally with dozens of bands in a wide variety of musical styles.
He’s also a huge fan of the imperfectly beautiful music of regular people singing together.
Working to empower communities around the world, Weisenberg strives to unlock their musical and spiritual potential. This way, he hopes to make music a lasting presence in shul and in Jewish life.
“The goal is to have the beautiful Shabbat of singing together,” he said. “I am always working with communities to help everyone sing. The goal is that through singing we learn how to listen to each other more carefully. And by listening to each other more carefully, we learn how to listen to the divine.”
In a June 2013 story in Tablet, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, co-founder and executive director of Mechon Hadar, a New York institution with a traditional egalitarian yeshiva and a mission to empower Jewish communities nationally, observed with great wonder the effect Weisenberg has on groups of people when teaching them to sing.
People were enthralled. Kaunfer said: “I think he is the greatest Jewish music educator on the planet.”
Drawing on his extensive experience with the wordless melodies of nigunim, the prayer chants of nusah and other musical styles, the Brooklyn-based Weisenberg works with others to bring music to life by focusing on beautiful old melodies that may have been lost by history, as well as his own compositions.
“The music brings us together, and we need to come together now more than ever before,” he said. “We are living in a highly fractured society and there is a large deal of solitude and alienation from one person to the next. Music is a spiritual tool that reminds us of our interdependence. … Let’s listen to the oneness of the world around us.”
He said the basic concept of his presentation is that nigun has the potential to transform people in their communities if they allow it.
“I always look forward to people being in their song and prayer and I am particularly excited to see how we can mix this in with that Texas flavor.”
This will be his second journey to Texas. His first was in Austin a few years ago working in a factory making guitars.
But the legend of Texas — and its heroes — had already preceded that into his life, he said.
“One of my musical heroes is Stevie Ray Vaughn, who died when I was eight,” Weisenberg said. “ … He poured his heart and soul into his music.”
*****Musical Shabbat gift from scholar-in-residence
25th annual scholar-in-residence weekend
Friday, April 1
Kabbalat Shabbat
7 p.m.
Joey Weisenberg leads a musically and spiritually uplifting nigun-infused Kabbalat Shabbat.
Program for participants
8 p.m.
Transformation of a Nigun: Based on his extensive experience with nigunim, nusah and other musical styles, Joey Weisenberg teaches how to explore the soul of any melody.
Saturday, April 2
Shacharit Services
9:30 a.m.
D’var Torah about the Architecture of Listening, exploring the interaction between physical space and spiritual music.
Building Singing Communities
1 p.m.
Using ideas from his book Building Singing Communities — strategies for bringing people together to make music a lasting and joy-filled force in shul and Jewish life.
7 p.m.
A “slow leave” of Shabbat with songs, words of Torah, and then dinner. Book and CD signing after Shabbat.
Sunday, April 3
8 a.m.
Men’s Club minyan and Collective Prayer Leadership Workshop
9 a.m.
Joey Weisenberg performs for Learning Center.
Cost before March 24 is: CBT members $85; nonmembers, $95. Student price is $18. After March 25, cost is: CBT members, $95; nonmembers, $105. Student price is $20.
Please make checks payable to: CBT, Scholar-in-Residence. Mail to: Evelyn Utay, 7273 Alto Caro, Dallas, TX 75248; phone: 972-980-8228; email,
For additional information and scholarships contact,
Robin Popik, Scholar-in-Residence chair, at

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