Music, joy core of new Renewal congregation

Rabbi Shafir Lobb

A focus on blending heart and mind brings a new congregation to Tucson. Congregation Kol Simchah (voice of joy) will hold its first Friday night Shabbat service and dinner on Nov. 19. “Born of the seed of Ner Tamid,” says Rabbi Shafir Lobb, the new Renewal congregation has emerged through “a gathering of people who needed to formalize what we were offering to the Tucson community — a rejoicing, very musical celebration of our Jewishness.”

Congregation Ner Tamid will continue to exist for about a year, she says, and then “it will be up to the congregation to decide what to do next.” Ner Tamid President Richard Kestler concurred.

“I’m not a musician myself,” says the rabbi. “I’m a non-Orthodox Hasid [pious person]. You don’t have to be Orthodox to be Hasidic about the joy of Judaism in a liberal musical environment.”

Weekly Friday night Shabbat services will be held at 7:15 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge, 1944 E. Allen Road, where weekly Saturday morning Shabbat services will also be held at 10 a.m., followed by a “schlep-a-pot” lunch.

Starting in December, on the first Saturday of the month at 10 a.m., a musical Shabbat service will take place at Himmel Park, followed by drumming and additional music, a “schlep-a-pot” lunch, with a jumping castle for children. Lobb says that all are welcome, whether they play an instrument or not.

“Music allows you to go where your head doesn’t,” she says, adding that Kol Simchah will offer adult education classes “for the left-brained more thinking parts of our beings.”

The new congregation will participate in a variety of social action activities, says Lobb, including mitzvah days to prepare meals for the homeless that will be distributed by the Community Food Bank. The Kol Simchah choir already has concerts scheduled in December for people in assisted living facilities. The choir is under the direction of Rev. Maya Kashtelyan, a Russian immigrant who has lived in Tucson for more than 15 years, and is ordained as a music director through the Renewal movement.

For more information, or to RSVP for the Nov. 19 free kosher chicken or salmon dinner, contact Lobb at 247-4741.