CAA Holds Celebration of Egalitarianism and Tradition
By Cynthia Winer
Congregation Agudas Achim culminates a Year of Torah Learning with a weekend of celebration, Feb. 9 to 11. The completion of Texas’ first Torah written by a woman scribe, a star-studded panel discussion of “Jewish Wit, Jewish Wisdom, Jewish Women,” and a performance by the world-renown a cappella group The Maccabeats are highlights of the festivities.
Sunday evening, Feb. 11, features a panel discussion with Hadassah Lieberman, Lisa Loeb and Rabbi Susan Silverman, moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash. Each of these women will share anecdotes of their journey as a voice for Judaism within their families and their communities.
The weekend celebration begins as Jen Taylor Friedman, soferet (scribe) and teacher, helps to welcome Shabbat with a d’var Torah Friday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m. in the CAA chapel. Friedman is one of the few women in the world trained to write a Torah and was the first woman to have completed a Torah scroll. Over the past year she visited CAA and guided hundreds of community members, from children to seniors, in hands-on participation, writing one of the 304,805 letters in the new Torah scroll that will be dedicated that Sunday. Friedman also guided congregants in sewing together panels of the Torah parchment, and she explained the role of a scribe to students at Austin Jewish Academy.
Shabbat morning, Feb. 10, Silverman, founding director of Second Nurture: Every Child Deserves a Family – And a Community, will deliver the d’var Torah in the CAA sanctuary. She and her husband wrote the bestselling book “Jewish Family & Life: Traditions, Holidays, and Values for Today’s Parents and Children,” which launched Jewish multimedia enterprise, JewishFamily.com.
Silverman lives in Jerusalem with her husband and five children. Her work includes advocating for liberal Judaism and promoting adoption.
Lisa Loeb is a singer-songwriter, producer, touring artist and author. Loeb will present a children’s concert and story time at CAA Sunday morning, Feb. 11, at 9:30 a.m. In the past decade, she has produced seven albums and children’s books and co-wrote music and lyrics for an off-Broadway musical about summer camps. Loeb will also perform a short set before the panel discussion Sunday evening.
Following Sunday’s children’s concert, the Mazel Tov Kocktail Hour klezmer band kicks off CAA’s Torah dedication celebration at 10:30 a.m. The entire Austin community is invited to attend as the final letters are written and the new Torah scroll is welcomed to Congregation Agudas Achim.
Sunday evening at 5 p.m. the celebration continues with an Evening of Entertainment, a ticketed event. The panel discussion features Silverman, Loeb and Lieberman. Married to Senator Joe Lieberman, Hadassah Lieberman has spent three decades advocating for Israel and a variety of Jewish causes. She will discuss the importance of instilling Jewish values in our children, the role of Judaism in her life and the necessity of active participation in Jewish communal activities. Her father and first husband were both rabbis.
The panel discussion will be moderated by Bash, CNN’s chief political correspondent. Bash has often spoken about being a Jewish woman in media and politics. Her father was the senior broadcast producer for “Good Morning America,” and her mother is an author and educator in Jewish studies.
Following the panel discussion, the Maccabeats will perform. Originally formed in 2007 as Yeshiva University’s student vocal group, the Maccabeats have recently emerged as an international phenomenon, with a large fanbase, more than 20 million views on YouTube, numerous television appearances and proven success with four albums.
Many events this weekend are free and open to the public. ■
For additional schedule information and to purchase tickets, visit theaustinsynagogue.org.