Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Renowned performer presents powerful performance at Temple Shir Shalom


Temple Shir Shalom spiritual leader Beth Shafer and renowned performer Peri Smilow.

On Friday, Sept. 19, Temple Shir Shalom welcomed nationally recognized performer, composer and educator Peri Smilow to Oviedo. This was the second in a series of guest musicians performing during Shabbat services. Smilow presented her Shabbat-in-Song with Beth Schafer, Temple Shir Shalom's spiritual leader and a renowned Jewish musician in her own right.

But far from just performing Jewish songs during a Friday night service, Smilow took on the duties of teaching and leading the congregation and guests who joined her for the evening. Over 100 people in attendance were treated to the music Smilow brings from deep within, in addition to a meaningful and particularly relevant pre-Rosh Hashanah sermon.

Musically, the service was a wonderful blend of Jewish artists. With Smilow and Schafer on the Bimah, the congregation was able to experience two of the leading voices in Jewish music playing together side by side. Joining them for several songs, the Temple Shir Shalom choir added a richness and depth to everything they sang. Even when Smilow brought the choir up for an impromptu accompaniment, their musicality was up for the task and they took to the new melody quickly.

Smilow performed a variety of spiritual songs, including her own arrangements. She also incorporated melodies from other Jewish musicians of note, including the late Debbie Friedman. In fact, it was one of these songs that served as the centerpiece of Smilow's teaching on the subject of healing. Specifically, Smilow linked the resurgence of the Misheberach (Prayer for Healing) in Reform Judaism, and its focal point in the Reform liturgy, to Debbie Friedman's musical arrangement of the prayer. She went on to show how this demonstrates the healing power of music, and the unique impact that a single melody can have on both personal and communal prayer. With Rosh Hashanah falling the following week, Smilow's words were a perfect lead-in to the upcoming High Holiday period.

In yet another link to leading Jewish musicians in the Reform Movement, Smilow and Schafer led the congregation in Oseh Shalom. But not just any Oseh Shalom. They chose the Michael Ochs arrangement. Earlier this year, in the first event in the series, Temple Shir Shalom hosted Michael Ochs and Alaa Ali for their Pursuit of Harmony experience. So powerful was the Temple Shir Shalom rendition of his arrangement that Ochs himself was moved enough to capture it on video. Smilow and Schafer successfully captured the power of his melody and demonstrated again the power that music can lend to prayer.

Shortly before the end of the service, an electrical anomaly caused elements of the sound system to stop working. Given the true performer that she is, Smilow was unfazed. The remainder of the service was conducted purely acoustically. It is a testament to both Smilow and her music that there was no loss of power in her message or her performance. The loss of electrical power was overcome by the power of her music.

Temple Shir Shalom of Oviedo (www.templeshirshalom.org) is a Reform family-oriented congregation. They welcome all families, singles, seniors and interfaith couples searching for their spiritual home. Its culture is one of warmth and inclusion-a unique, music-filled worship experience coupled with a caring community. The congregation is built on a new model; to strengthen its current generation and inspire the next through positive Jewish living.


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