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BY TEQUILA MINSKY | What do you get when you have the grandson of a great Ashkenazi traditional cantor mentored by subway-playing Carolina Slim, a South Carolina Piedmont Blues guitarist and singer known for rich harmonies and polyrhythmic, fingerpicking guitar patterns, accompanied by a rabbi-in-residence?
You get Jeremiah Lockwood and Rabbi Dan Ain conducting this season’s High Holiday services at the 92YTribeca, 92Y’s Downtown arts and culture venue at 200 Hudson St.
Ain explains that Lockwood learned the classic musical tunes from his grandfather, Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, who for decades was a guest cantor in Chicago. Lockwood is well-known as the front man for his indie band, The Sway Machinery, whose songs are a blend of Afro-beat, rock and other musical genres. “Jeremiah is trying to capture the deep roots of Ashkenazi Jewish spiritual music,” said Ain. “He is proficient and experimental, and has the unique ability to reach back to move forward.”
Lockwood believes that music is the most essential part of the holidays. “It is life-giving,” he said, noting that he uses traditional liturgical source material and strives for a balance between authenticity, historical form and personal expression. Lockwood, accompanied by an organist, will be singing and playing guitar while leading the prayers.
Lockwood embellishes, adapts and creates melodies, infusing them with incredible energy. “Many of the songs — Avinu Malkeinu, Aleinu, and the Shema — will be completely identifiable,” said Ain. He will lead Kol Nidre, the Aramaic declaration before the evening Yom Kippur service.
As the two musicians team together to bring in the Hebrew year 5773, they meld the old with the new and the relevant with the esoteric. This includes putting together a 40-page prayer book for Rosh Hashanah — an assortment of High Holiday hits drawing from all the Jewish denominations.
“I’m an equal opportunity appropriator,” Ain said of his service, which will include Hebrew with translation and transliteration. His aim is to make Jewish life accessible by removing from it linguistic and other such barriers.
Ain looks for Jewish interpretations that speak to Downtown residents, especially those in their 20s and 30s who are trying to find their way. He suggested that, in spite of technology, young people can have challenges connecting, and that 140 characters — the maximum amount allowed in a Tweet — is an incomplete form of communication. “I try to create a space for young people to engage in face-to-face, real conversation,” he said.
This is the rabbi’s third High Holiday service as part of the “Jewish Life” component at the 92YTribeca, which opened in 2008.
Film, comedy and classes on literature, wine and architecture (among other topics) are other areas of emphasis, Ain noted. “With people unemployed, underemployed, and disillusioned, some are struggling to make sense of where they find themselves,” he said. “Our tradition has been grappling with these issues for centuries.”
Along with events for major holidays, the Rabbi hosts monthly Friday night Shabbat dinners with guest attendees and lively discussions. Previous guests included comedian Gilbert Gottfried and hip-hop D.J. Peter Rosenberg.
On Fri., Sept. 28, 92TribecaY will host an election-themed night with Ari Berman of The Nation and Noah Pollak of Commentary. On Fri., Nov. 16, Father Jim Martin, known as the “official chaplain of The Colbert Report,” will partake in an event where all are welcome to share their favorite rabbi-priest jokes.
Rosh Hashanah services will be held on Sun., Sept. 16. The tradition of eating apples and honey cake will precede the Rosh Hashanah evening services, which begin at 7 p.m. on Sept. 16. In Conservative and Orthodox traditions, a second day — September 17 — is observed. Yom Kippur takes place the evenings of Tues., Sept. 25 and Wed., Sept. 26. At 92YTribeca, Kol Nidre services begin at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25. Yom Kippur services begin the day after at 10:30 a.m. Concluding services featuring a dialogue with the rabbi start at 5:30 p.m. and are followed by a break-the-fast meal.