A VIOLINIST and beat-boxer duo perform at Temple Emanu-El in New York City last week as part of ‘Dusk’ – an after-work party aimed at engaging and inspiring young Jews..
(photo credit: ANDREW RAUNER)
NEW YORK – Raves in New York City are known for their unusual venues – an abandoned restaurant in Chinatown, a warehouse in Brooklyn or, more recently, a synagogue.
The Upper East Side’s Temple Emanu-El, the largest Jewish prayer space in the world, partnered last week with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the pop-up movement sunrise party movement Daybreaker to host “Dusk,” an after-work Great Gatsby-themed party, aimed at engaging and inspiring young Jews.
Organizers of the event described it as “sound meditation meets theater-meets dance party-meets live concert-meets speaker series, all in one insanely immersive experience.”
Some 800 Millennials attended the event, which began with a 20-minute mediation session led by a sound healer.
As participants closed their eyes for the exercise, some looked at each other and smiled and laughed awkwardly. Music then followed on stage with a Broadway gospel choir, a violinist and beat-boxer duo, as well as a band playing songs such as Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.”
When playing their third song, as the audience rose from their seats to dance, the band made its way down the aisle onto a staircase leading to a large event space underneath the synagogue. Participants followed downstairs clapping, and entered the room, which was set up for the party.
As is the case for all Daybreaker events, no alcohol was served, only water, juice and tea. Snacks included kale salads, quinoa puffs and pretzel balls.
“I’m a member of Daybreaker and I’m a proud member of this congregation and when I introduced the two groups, we realized that we are coming together with the same objectives: it’s about recognizing the power of groups, of collective thought, of positive thinking, of pluralistic prayer,” Daniel Bloch Jeydel,” adviser to the Schusterman Family Foundation and active committee member at Temple Emanu-El told The Jerusalem Post.
To engage young Jews, they should be allowed to “create community in their own image, to apply the principles of our faith to a contemporary context,” he said.
“We all recognize that there is now, as much as ever, an interest in faith,” he added.
“The issue and the challenge is that it’s not always taking place at the synagogue and the synagogue has to reflect the community it serves.”
Daybreaker co-founder Matt Brimer told the Post the movement is “first and foremost a community.”
“It started as a social experiment about two years ago,” he explained. “We were growing frustrated with a lot of traditional nightlife in New York and how nightclubs are overrun with drugs and alcohol and mean people.
“There was also a growing interest in health and wellness, so we thought, ‘what if we could create the most amazing positive celebration of life that is about mindfulness, wellness, comradery, self-expression, music and dance,’” he said.
“A lot of young people have maybe stepped away from traditional spirituality or traditional organized religion but yet are still seeking a lot of the positive things that religion provides: the idea of community, shared values, being a part of something greater than yourself.”
Brimer told the Post these values are the driving forces behind Daybreak, which simply aims to communicate them through events that appeal to young people from all faiths.
“Dusk” was the first event organized by Daybreaker in the evening. The group is usually known for its sunrise parties, which take place from 6 to 9 a.m., before participants go to work.
The parties are always accompanied by a spiritual experience, such as an hour of yoga.