I’ve just come back from two very special days in New Orleans. I was invited to NOLA by a dear colleague that I’ve known for many years and who is head of the Jewish Community Day School of New Orleans. On Sunday night I had the honor of being the musical guest at the school’s 20th anniversary gala and today I spent a few hours at the school teaching the children. There are so many wonderful things that happened during my visit and that the visit evoked. I’ll try to list a few to capture some of the spirit of the experience.
- Relationships. They’re everything. A valued relationship brought me to NOLA, while in NOLA I had a chance to reconnect with a couple that I knew from my days as a student rabbi in Lafayette, La where they temporarily relocated after Katrina. Also, I took Will Robertson, my dear friend and musical compatriot along for the journey. Relationships are a prerequisite for all meaningful experiences.
- Radical hospitality. Will and I stayed in the home of a beautiful married couple. I’ll mention that they’re slightly older because it’s important. These folks were so overwhelmingly gracious that I will truly never forget the feeling of staying in their home. From leaving the door unlocked so we could come back very late in the evening, to carrying our bags to and from the car, to feeding us both in their home and around the city, to driving us to and from every place we had to go, to sharing generously of their personal stories, to… the list goes on. Even the thought of hosting close friends and family in my home at this time in my life evokes a small degree of dread because life is already so fast paced. But what a magnificent experience to be the recipient of such joyful and authentic hospitality!
- Katrina. I guess it’s not surprising but the extent to which Katrina +10 years later is still part of the daily consciousness of NOLA really made a strong impression.
- Music. The sheer amount of music that blares from every club and street corner of NOLA is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It defies the imagination to comprehend how a single city could be home to such a disproportionately vast amount of live music on a constant basis. There’s enough music on a single night in NOLA to match what most major cities have to offer in a month.
- Paris. Immediately prior to my NOLA visit we all witnessed the devastating news from Paris. The juxtaposition of barbarism and humanity, ugliness and beauty, despair and hope, was very much on my mind.
- Good people. Good people make all the difference in the world. At the gala itself I had the joy of being accompanied by 30 children from the school. Lauren Gisclair, an opera singer, musician, and educator is JCDS’ music teacher. She prepared the children. And she’s good people. You can tell because of the way she inspired the children and led them. It’s wonderful to work with and be blessed by good people. I feel like I had that blessing many times over in NOLA.
- Inspiration. Today, JCDS’s 3rd and 4th graders and I wrote a new Chanukah song. And we all love it. There’s something magical about sharing an inspiring and collaborative creative process with others. It creates an unspoken bond that all can enjoy.
- Potential. It’s inspiring to be in the presence of so much potential. Especially when you have a deep and nagging suspicion that this potential is on the threshold of being realized. JCDS is a great school with great leadership. It’s a school that has the distinguished and profound legacy of having weathered the storm, quite literally. Witnessing good organizations and good people fulfill their potential, even in subtle ways, reminds me that we are all striving, growing, and surpassing what we previously thought we’re capable of.
I could say more, but the hour is getting late and it’s good to be home!