Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
I’ve been traveling the South as an ISJL Education Fellow for more than a year now—but this summer, I traveled for the first time to the city of Houston, Texas. I was there for work, but I also had the special privilege of being able to see my roommate, friend, and fellow ISJL Education Fellow, Carly Abramson, perform in two concerts with Joe Buchanan.
The first concert was Friday night: Shabbat. We were at Joe’s home congregation of Congregation Shaar Hashalom in Clear Lake, just outside Houston. I sat with Carly’s family, and as the service began I couldn’t keep a smile off my face. The most impactful moment for me was Joe and Carly’s rendition of the song “Dear Hate” by Maren Morris. I can’t put into words the emotions it made me feel, but I can tell you that everyone in the room was also emotional; there were tears shed by most of us in the sanctuary.
The song “Dear Hate” was originally written after the horrific Las Vegas shooting that left 59 dead and over 850 injured. And although the song is sad, its message is also uplifting: throughout the song the line “love is going to conquer all” repeats. The motif is a beautiful intersection of words that makes you feel comforted in times in sorrow.
That line resonated with me, and Joe and Carly’s voice singing it has frequently run on a loop in my head ever since. Big or small, the reminder that love will conquer all resounds. I think too often we forgot about how strong love can be; while it cannot fix everything, it can begin to repair so much.
I also found it interesting that the song that connected with me the most, and the song that had the greatest impact on me that Shabbat, was a song that isn’t Jewish. It made me contemplate the balance of keva (routine/tradition) and kavanah (intention/spirituality) in Jewish prayer.
In a service we often speak about love. Whether the love of God or the love of Torah or the love of the world, it’s often the same prayers. The keva, the ritual. And while that’s important in the davening process, the kavanah, or the intention sometimes is outweighed. That is what happened to me this day.
Praying about love and praying for love is important to me, as a Jew. But the keva of praying about this, the ritual of praying about this, is often hard to connect with through traditional prayers. “Dear Hate” allowed me to pray and connect to this aspect of Judaism, but through a different lens. A lens I had never experienced and that was an incredibly meaningful experience for me.
While the ritual of the prayer is important, the intention of the prayer is important as well. We need to remember that we can pray for these things in many different ways, and changing the way we pray about them can make a huge impact on someone’s experience, must like it made for mine that day in Clear Lake, Texas.
It renewed my faith in the sentiment beautifully shared by Maren, Carly, Joe, and many others: Love is going to conquer all.