What was the initial inspiration for the Jewels of Elul?
I had been commissioned to write a song for psalm 27 which is recited each day of the month of Elul as a preparation to get ready for the High Holy days. I had no idea there was such a thing, such intentional prep time set aside for the holidays. I thought, if there Is one dedicated psalm for the month, it would be of even greater value to have 29 dedicated inspirations, one for each day of the month.
How has Jewels of Elul evolved over time?
It has evolved in terms of quantity, quality, and breadth. Initially the contributors were exclusively Jewish people I knew in the community. Over the years, I realized that inspiration need not be limited to Jewish people. I also understood that if it was only me choosing the people, the contributors would only reflect what I thought was important. As years went on, I asked for other people's input. I have totally opened my mind to the ideas and influence of other people.
The Jewels of Elul and Reboot's 10Q project both engage communities at a time of reflection. Why do you think it is important to reflect both individually and as a community?
At the end of the day, we are all reflections of the other, and "the other" is a choice that only individuals can make - who you decide to spend your time with, what you decide to read, watch, or listen to. Reflection is important for people to grow and evolve. I have found one of the best ways to reflect is through the mirror of the other - to see yourself through the perspective of their eyes, thoughts and passions allows me to see myself more clearly.
Tell us about this year's theme - "The Art of Return"?
The Art of Return was inspired by a meeting that I had with Robin Kramer of Reboot. She was sitting at the Pico Union, and I said, “It's about time we collaborate already! You guys do great work at Reboot, we do great work here, so let’s do great work together.” She told me about a project they were doing called ReBar, an event where people look back at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and how they see it differently now, what would they keep or change, any regrets. I loved the idea and thought it would be a great theme for Jewels of Elul, but to broaden the idea to people at all stages of life looking in retrospect at their coming of age moments.
Do you have a favorite Jewel?
Her name is Jessica Leibos, and she wrote a Jewel in 2007. She is a blogger with a keen ability to write about raw, sensitive ideas and emotions. She wrote a Jewel about her mother-in-law's decent into senility and her family’s supporting her that brings me to tears every time I read it. There was one part where her mom was in a checkout line and began to dance, and to not make HER AN object of ridicule, she and her whole family began to dance too. It’s beautiful.
The Jewels of Elul and Reboot's 10Q project are similar in that they both inspire reflection. Here is a question from 10Q: Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?
I would have to say the most significant event of this year would be concluding Friday night live after 17 years. Besides the fact that it held a huge piece of real estate in my life with time and creativity, it was also the germ that empowered me to create Jewels of Elul, collaborative arts festivals such as Let my People Sing and Hallelu and most recently the new Pico union project, a multi faith and cultural arts center in downtown Los Angeles. It gave me the freedom to think outside of the box and the gift to think inside a Jewish box.