During the early 1970s, American Jews began what would become a slow-building wave of musical innovation in prayer. Shlomo Carlebach had already been recording for a decade or so, though his music had yet to find an audience much beyond the neo-chassidic or emerging renewal communities. Debbie Friedman was just starting to write and record her own music, but her music was a few years away from being heard outside of summer camps and youth retreats.
Meanwhile, synagogues on the East Coast were experimenting with engaging their “young people” in new modes of worship. Fortunately, many of these attempts at musical and liturgical innovation were captured on record. One glorious example was brought to my attention by one Rob Markoff, who found a copy of “Sing Out its Shabbos” in a thrift store record bin, and proceeded to remix and release the album under the name Sabbapath. The Sabbapath remix is brilliant (and you can download it for free here), but nothing can quite touch the pure gorgeous honesty and naivete of the original.
In its own words, the album is “A folk rock sabbath celebration by the young people of Temple Shaarei Emeth, Englishtown, New Jersey,” and it was recorded in late 1972 or 1973. The back of the record jacket explains:
The fifty teenagers who sing, dance and strum their way into your hearts are all members of Temple Shaarei Emeth’s Senior Youth Group. They are not religious freaks, but are a talented troup (sic) who have discovered an extra dimension in their lives — their identity as Jews. Their days are crammed with all the excitement that goes along with being a teenager. Within the the group are football heroes, basketball and tennis stars, cheerleaders and scholars. But also within them is the ability to express themselves as Jews.
Here are two songs from the album. The first is the Mourners’ Kaddish, complete with an introduction by the Rabbi, explaining that it is presented here, in part, in memory of the 11 Israeli athletes slain at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The second is the Youth Group’s take on Neil Young’s “Down By the River,” with new lyrics. Both are remarkable documents of this moment in American Jewish history, and incredible artifacts of the twists, turns, and unpredictable expressions that emerge from the intersection of Jewish education and youth culture.
AND: if you are one of the lucky performers on this album (or any other albums from the time), drop us a line. We’d love to speak to you.