How often have we heard people respond in this way?
I’m always ready to go out and enjoy life. But, the daily alarm of the shofar in Elul reminds us to mix those pleasures, and that time is…
Lena Horne [from notes on the Idelsohn Society’s blog, to which I cannot link directly] sang this song “Now!,” written for her in 1963 by Jewish Broadway greats Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne. Comden and Green wrote her lyrics that were a scathing indictment of anti-Black racism and lying American democracy and Styne set them to the most unlikely music of all, “Hava Nagila.” Horne performed “Now!” at a pair of benefit concerts at Carnegie Hall (she co-headlined with Frank Sinatra and sent her proceeds to the Gandhi Society for Human Rights) and then went into the studio with conductor Ray Ellis to cut it as a single. Variety wrote that she sang of “new worlds to come.” She wanted to share profits from the song with the NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality but its radical lyrics kept it off the radio and “Now!” never had the impact Horne had hoped for. She included it on the Here’s Lena Now album for 20th Century Fox, alongside her takes on Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Arlen and Harburg’s Bloomer Girl call for equality, “The Eagle and Me,” (Horne sang it on Broadway in the 40s: “free as the sun is free/ that’s how it’s got to be”).
“Now!” did not entirely fade from view, though. It soon found the ears of Santiago Alvarez, an experimental Cuban filmmaker who used the song as the score to his own “Now!,” a landmark 1965 newsreel collage of black civil rights struggles that is considered a classic of Cuban cinema.
I have collected Hava Nagila variants for nearly 50 years. First Napster, then YouTube made the process so much easier. Even so, I have a few on my hard drive (from old vinyl) that have not been posted. It is an amazingly powerful song, and yet it consists of very few “moving parts”.
So it can be with our efforts at this time of year…
begin with small steps
The work we need to do now can be done in small pieces. Practice a few minutes a day. That way, when the main event occurs, we’ll be ready. While focusing on tiny steps it’s good to keep in mind one of the criticisms that people have of Twitter:
How can you express a deep thought in only 140 characters?
let’s go for under one hundred:
If I am not for myself who will be for me. If I am for myself alone, what am I. If not now, when?
IF NOT NOW
DO NOT FORGET
your lapel buttons
Many people have lapel buttons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jacket you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any laying around that you do not feel emotionally attached to, please let me know. I preserve these for the Jewish people. At some point they will all go to an appropriate museum. You can see all the buttons shared to date.
Remember, more resources (selichot worksheets, al chet questionnaires) are available in the sidebar on the right during Elul through Yom Kippur.