09.10.13The Jerusalem Post By Sammy Hudes

"Music Without Borders"

American-Israeli cantor Idan Irelander is trying to bring together different cultures through the power of music.

Idan Irelander believes music can be used as an instrument of peace. The cantor of Temple Emanuel, a reform synagogue in Andover, Massachusetts, says he didn’t originally set out to use his musical talents for this purpose, but it’s nevertheless been an effect of his project, “Shabbat Olam."

The native of Netanya, Israel began the project as a way of “bringing Jewish music cultures back to life."

“My recent project was to investigate and research the music of Sephardic Jewry," Irelander said. “I had in mind a couple of years ago to have a Friday night service at my temple with the experience of a Sephardic Shabbat."

Irelander began putting together musical arrangements for the performance, which would entail using traditional Middle Eastern instruments such as the Oud, Qanun, Tanbur, and Kamanache, he says.

The next step was finding musicians that could play them. Through his musical connections, Irelander was put in touch with a combination of Jordanian, Syrian, Iranian, Palestinian, Israeli, American, and Armenian musicians.

Together, they formed an ensemble group that performed at Irelander’s synagogue two years ago for a Friday night Shabbat service.

“We were seven musicians on the stage in a synagogue on a Friday night; Jews, Muslims and Christians from different parts of the world – and some of them are the biggest enemies of Israel – and we basically were performing together traditional Jewish music that came from the Arab countries," Irelander said.

“Only in America."

About 350 people attended the service to listen to the performances, which Irelander says is a high number even for Shabbat.

“They were very, very excited, including the Rabbi and the congregation too," Irelander said. “We are a very peaceful congregation and I think the people were so anxious to listen to this tradition and to see all these people together on the bimah on Friday night."

The evening was such a success that the group, coined the “Ahavat Olam" ensemble, recorded a CD featuring their performances of these Sephardic songs, called, Shabbat Olam – Sephardic Shabbat Unplugged, which was just released a few months ago.

They also performed again at Temple Emanuel at the end of this past May, once more drawing a 300+ crowd, according to Irelander.

Irelander says the group’s diversity has helped it form a message of peace through its music, although that wasn’t the original goal.

“I never had any relationship before with Palestinian musicians or anything like that," he said, recalling that he had checked to make sure some of the musicians would be comfortable performing in a synagogue two years ago.

“Not only did they want to do that, but they were actually excited because they’ve never been in a synagogue before," Irelander said.

Irelander says he plans to build upon the Shabbat Olam series by doing some more research on Jewish communities across the globe and then bring musicians from various countries across the world to come perform at his synagogue.

He feels this project is a colorful way to provide members of the congregation with a glimpse into different Jewish cultures that exist worldwide.

“Basically I’m trying to bring together cultures through music," Irelander said.

He described music as a “universal language," which makes it the perfect medium for connecting to other cultures, and even performing with musicians from Middle Eastern countries not known for their friendliness toward Israel.

“We speak a language of peace and across borders we have no hatred, Irelander said. “We just love making music together."

For more information visit www.irelandermusic.com

06.10.13Jewish Journal North of Boston

New CDs of Note

By Matt Robinson

With our busy schedules, we all need some time to decompress and unplug.

Fortunately, our tradition has one built in. It is the eternal gift of Shabbat.

On "Sephardic Shabbat Unplugged," Cantor Idan Irelander, music director at Temple Emanuel in Andover, brings a taste of his famed "Shabbat Unplugged" performance to the world. From the ear-awakening introduction of "Sh’ma" to the rhythmic rounds of "L’cha Dodi," dances through "Shalom Aleichem," "Ahavat Olam," and "Mi Chamocha," a relaxing "Aleinu," a niggun-ed "V’Shamru" and a meditative "Hashkivenu," the album combines some of the most beloved and meaningful elements of the Shabbat liturgy with sounds that come from near and far, taking listeners on a journey of sound and spirit that will revive body and soul.

05.31.13The Eagle Tribune

Temple hosts Sephardic music to encourage unity

By Yadira Betances

In some settings, Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians and Americans may not even speak to each other, let alone sit side by side to play music.

At Temple Emanuel’s sabbath service tomorrow, musicians from these countries perform Sephardic music led by Cantor Idan Irelander as a way of bringing together people together in the wake of Muslims being attacked and called terrorists following the Boston Marathon bombings.

“This is a groundbreaking event, and puts the synagogue in the place it should be. When people come to the sanctuary, they want to find comfort and feel at home. What we’re doing is connecting the East with the West in a harmonious way," Irelander said. The ensemble is “Ahavat Olam," named after the Jewish prayer which translates to “World Love."

Temple Emanuel’s spiritual leader Robert S. Goldstein said Sephardic music comes from places such as Iran, Iraq and Spain.

“It celebrates part of our heritage that we don’t often use here because many of our ancestors come from Eastern Europe," Goldstein said. “The second message is the musicians themselves who come from different places and philosophies, but find a common bond in music which is the universal language that we share."

The 7 p.m. service at the temple on 7 Haggetts Pond Road, includes prayers set to the tunes of the music.

“Our goal is to affirm the values that we cherish in this country," Goldstein said. “We want to celebrate the diversity of ideas."

The performance had been scheduled for a later date, but it was moved up.

“People from across the globe have shown great humanity by turning their outrage and anger into acts of generosity and support for the injured and the families of those who perished," Goldstein said.

Despite the heroic acts, he said people of Muslim descent walk in fear of been harassed and physically abused following the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

“‘Boston Strong’ is an expression of unity, not a cry for vengeance," Goldstein said.

“Nothing reflects the beauty of the human spirit more than music. When people are singing, they can’t argue. Music expresses emotion, but not hate or enmity," he said.

The harmony they create will prove that music is truly a universal language shared by all human beings, and in the end, goodness and beauty are expressions of the human spirit that are truly eternal.

05.30.13Judy Wakefield - Andover Townsman

Peace and unity, post-Marathon bombings

Sabbath performance aims to continue healing, calming anger
By Judy Wakefield jwakefield@andovertownsman.com

It’s been six weeks since the Boston Marathon bombings.

Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein of Temple Emanuel in Andover knows that the alleged perpetrators have been found and their suspected helpers identified.

Goldstein has seen people from across the globe show great humanity by turning their outrage and anger into acts of generosity and support for the injured and the families of those who perished.

But yet he’s also troubled by the reports he’s hearing of hatred toward foreigners.

“We are so polarized ... so angry about those coming here, so angry ... too many among us have used the bombings as an excuse to express hatred toward law-abiding immigrants who, like our own ancestors, came to these shores seeking a better life," Goldstein said.

For the local rabbi, his post-bombing reflections fueled a desire to do something more. He along with his congregation wanted to find a way to reach out and bring people together.

“‘Boston Strong’ is an expression of unity, not a cry for vengeance," Goldstein said.

It was the temple’s cantor — Idan Irelander — who came up with the idea of uniting people around music.

Irelander has assembled a group of talented musicians from all over the globe who will perform at Temple Emanuel on Friday night, May 31. It’s designed as a peaceful unity performance to be performed during the Sabbath service. The public is invited.

“In other settings, some of these musicians may not even speak to each other," Goldstein wrote in an email about the concert. “This politically and ethnically diverse group will sit together, playing music written at a time when Jews, Christians and Moslems lived in peace in places like Spain, Morocco and Turkey,"

Irelander is well connected to the Boston music scene. As a result, musicians from Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Japan will perform the program of music of the Sephardic Jewish tradition.

Goldstein points to Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl" as a good example of surviving difficult emotional times.

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains," Goldstein quotes from Frank’s writings.

Saying music is a universal language shared by all humans, Goldstein believes music is a good way to help anyone’s healing.

“Nothing reflects the beauty of the human spirit more than music," he wrote. “When people are singing, they can’t argue. Music expresses emotion, but not hate or enmity."

05.30.13Jewish Journal North of Boston

A Note of Harmony

By Rabbi Robert Goldstein

It has been six weeks since the Marathon bombings. The alleged perpetrators have been found; their suspected helpers identified. People from across the globe have shown great humanity by turning their outrage and anger into acts of generosity and support for the injured and the families of those who perished.

At the memorial service following the bombings, Governor Patrick spoke of the many acts of kindness shown in those frenzied minutes after the attacks: doctors, nurses, first-responders, even citizens not trained in first aid, rushed to help the injured. How many lives were saved by their selfless acts of bravery and compas sion? The governor urged people to embrace these moments of nobility and humanity, particularly when spirits flag and anger and rage threaten to overtake us all.

Sadly, even in the midst of such acts of selfless heroism, there are too many among us who have used the bombings as an excuse to express hatred toward law-abiding immigrants who, like our own ancestors, came to these shores seeking a better life. How many American Moslems walk the streets in fear of being attacked, branded as terrorists for the clothes they wear or the color of their skin? "Boston Strong" is an expression of unity, not a cry for vengeance.

Anne Frank wrote in "The Diary of a Young Girl," a book read by almost every American of middle school age, "I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains."

Nothing reflects the beauty of the human spirit more than music. When people are singing, they can’t argue. Music expresses emotion, but not hate or enmity.

On Friday, May 31, under the direction of Temple Emanuel’s Cantor Idan Irelander, a group of talented musicians from all over the globe, including Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Japan, will perform a Sabbath service consisting of music of the Sephardic Jewish tradition. This politically and ethnically diverse group will sit together, playing music written at times when Jews, Christians and Moslems lived in peace in places like Spain, Morocco and Turkey.

The harmony they create will prove that music is truly a universal language shared by all human beings and, in the end, goodness and beauty are expressions of the human spirit that are truly eternal. The program begins at 7 p.m. at Temple Emanuel, 7 Haggetts Pond Rd., Andover. All are welcome.

Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein is the spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel of Andover.

03.11.13The Eagle Tribune

Cantor Idan Irelander releases CD

By Yadira Betances

Growing up in Israel, Idan Irelander said he was fascinated by the music and culture of the Sephardic Jews from Spain, Portugal, Africa, and the Middle East which played on the radio and synagogues.

"It was songs that kept playing in my head because it’s the most popular one because it reminds people of where they grew up and the traditions of where they came from,"

"They incorporate their local music idioms and instrument to the liturgical context, adding an element of folk music to our already rich musical tradition," he said.

Irelander, a cantor since 2009, did not want that musical genre to be disappear among the Jewish diaspora .

He recently produced a CD titled, “Sephardic Shabbat Unplugged – A Journey into the Music of the Sephardic Tradition" which explores the diversity of the music of the Sephardic Jewry of Yemen, Turkey, Israel, Tetuan, Morocco, Algeria and Ladino.

Irelander, cantor at Temple Emanuel, 7 Haggetts Pond Road, used the Friday night sabbath services and composed original arrangements for familiar prayers and songs using the ancient instruments which Sephardic music is based on such as oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument known for its smaller neck. The baglama saz, which is similar to the Western lute has a deep round back and longer neck. as well as Iranian and Turkish folk instruments.

Among the prayers Irelander composed include Sh’ma, meaning, “Hear O Israel"; Shalom Aleichem, a traditional song sung at the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath and L’cha Dodi , which translates to “Come my Beloved," a Jewish liturgical song sang at sundown to welcome the Sabbath.

Irelander was accompanied by the Ahavat Olam" (“World Love") ensemble, a seven-member group of musicians from Jordan, Iran, Syria, Palestine, America, Iran, and Israel.

The CD’s cover features a “Hamsa" which depicts an open right hand with three middle fingers extended, a curved thumb or pinky finger. The talisman has several symbols including fish, horse shoes and eyes. Irelander said represents the hand of God as well as good luck.

The CD is a result of a concert Irelander, and the ensemble hosted at the temple in 2011.

“As a cantor, it was an obligation for me to record this music," Irelander said. “I wanted to create something that would last forever. If we had not done it, it would disappear, so it has a higher value."

Irelander said it was difficult finding information about Sephardic music because most of it was passed down through oral history. He attended liturgies at different synagogues

He also learned to play the folk instruments so he could compose his own arrangements using original instrumentation and melodies.

Born in Netanya, Israel, Irelander came to the United States to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston where he earned a bachelor’s degree in film scoring and classical compossion in 2001. He also has a master’s degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew College in Newton and was ordained a cantor at the school.

Irelander said becoming a cantor was natural progression for him. He was a song leader at synagogue and his mother was a Bible and Hebrew literature teacher.

For more information and to listen to sample tracks, please visit www.irelandermusic.com. The CD is available for purchase at CDbaby.com, itunes.com, Amazon.com and irelandermusic.com.

01.18.13Michael Isaacson-Sephardic Shabbat Unplugged CD Review

"Usually, when I receive a new synagogue music CD to review it is a mixed blessing. The song/compositions for the ubiquitous contemporary guitars and synthesizers are OK but often lack overall vitality. This is not the case with SEPHARDIC SHABBAT UNPLUGGED.

Immediately the physical package attracts us by its beautifully wrought Hamsah by David Yohanan and overall graphic design by the talented Haggai Cohen-Milo.
Cantor Idan Irelander has performed and produced a program of unusually vibrant Sephardic Kabbalat Shabbat and liturgical settings that is a welcome relief from the contemporary hum drum offerings. This is due to a few factors:

First, not everything is fast and perky. Some meaningful meditative settings like the Sh'ma from Cairo and Beth Bahia Cohen's "Shabbat Olam" gives the excellent instrumentalists something of substance to perform.

Secondly, the music comes from an unexpected sephardic sources other than Spain, Italy, and France. The haunting Sh'ma is Egyptian, the L'cha Dodi is Yemenite, the Mizmor L'David is Turkish, and the Hashkiveinu is Algerian.

Thirdly, In all these works, Cantor Irelander sings with purity, regard for the style of each and an earnestness that is finely communicated through the music.

Lastly the accompanying instrumental support is superlative. Saalim Hakeem's percussive playing is first rate on Shalom Aleichem as is Mana Jan's Oud and Kamanche performance. Cellist Yacov Aviv, flutist Amir Milstein, violinist Beth Cohen, and Talia Kayyali's Qanun all add aunthenticity and sensitivity to the mix."

"...This CD is a seriously thought out effort to provide an alternative Shabbat musical experience...and, on the whole it succeeds! Congratulations to Cantor Irelander, his ensemble, and all those music lovers in the New England community who supported this finely mixed and mastered production.

SEPHARDIC SHABBAT UNPLUGGED is a worthy CD ...go on line and buy a copy you'll enjoy it"

Michael Isaacson, synagogue composer

01.01.13Press Release: Shabbat Olam-Sephardic Shabbat Unplugged

New CD explores the diversity of Sephardic music

Using native music and musicians, Cantor Idan Irelander brings together different cultures, customs, and ideologies, giving them an apolitical, common voice with which to speak. In his recently released CD, “Sephardic Shabbat Unplugged – A Journey into the Music of the Sephardic Tradition", Cantor Irelander explores the diversity of the music of Sephardic Jewry. This CD is the first in Cantor Irelander’s Shabbat Olam – Shabbat Around the World series, and is available through his website: www.irelandermusic.com

“Sephardic Shabbat Unplugged" reflects the distinctive musical traditions of the diverse Jewish communities of Spain, Portugal, Africa, and the Middle East. Using the liturgy of the Friday night service, Cantor Irelander composed original arrangements for familiar prayers and songs, among them Sh’ma, Shalom Aleichem, and L’cha Dodi using the ancient instruments upon which Sephardic music is based, such as oud, baglama saz, and qanun. The CD features the “Ahavat Olam" (World Love) ensemble comprised of musicians from Jordan, Iran, Syria, Palestine, America, Iran, and Israel.

A native of Netanya, Israel, Cantor Irelander earned a Bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston and a Masters Degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew College in Newton, MA. He has performed on and arranged music for a number of albums for Israeli musicians. He currently holds the position of Music Director at Temple Emanuel in Andover Massachusetts.

For more information and to listen to sample tracks, please visit www.irelandermusic.com. The CD is available for purchase at CDbaby.com, itunes.com, Amazon.com and irelandermusic.com.

03.04.12The Boston Globe

iPad Gives Boy A Voice At His Bar Mitzvah

By Steven A. Rosenberg
Globe Staff

ANDOVER - The 12-year-old boy sat in the synagogue, looked out at the congregation, and waved. On a day when Jewish tradition marks the transition from boy to man, Matthew Emmi smiled often and moved his hands to the music of the Hebrew songs. During prayers, he alternately slouched and sat erect.

And when it was time for him to say a prayer before the Torah, he touched the screen of an iPad.

Matthew is severely autistic and cannot read, write, or speak sentences. His family, friends, and educators never know exactly what he is thinking, but they know Matthew likes going to synagogue. He has been a regular at the Sunday service at Andover’s Temple Emanuel, where he hums, claps and smiles when Cantor Idan Irelander plays traditional Hebrew prayers on his guitar.

Several months ago, Suzanne and Michael Emmi decided their son’s autism would not prevent him from having a bar mitzvah.

“Because of the issues in his life, he’s not going to have a wedding or a high school or college graduation,’’ his mother said. “We wanted him to have that opportunity to have a special moment and shine.’’

After some discussion, one of Matthew’s teachers came up with an idea. Jamie Hoover, who is also the executive director of the May Center for Child Development School, met with Mathew, his family, and the temple clergy. During the meeting, she handed Mathew an iPad and after little prompting, got him to touch an icon on the screen. The iPad responded by reciting the name of his younger sister, Mia, and Matthew was delighted.

“It gave him a voice,’’ said Hoover.

The structure of the bar mitzvah was set: Matthew could essentially lead the service by touching iPad icons. School staff recorded Matthew reciting “mama’’ and “dada’’ and the names of other relatives who would be called up to the Torah. Irelander recorded blessings and Torah readings that a boy being bar mitzvahed would ordinarily recite, and e-mailed them to Hoover - who matched the prayers to icons and photographs.

“It’s quite amazing,’’ said Rabbi Robert Goldstein, of Temple Emanuel, who has known Matthew for several years. “We’re blending the most cutting-edge technology with tradition; with reading the ancient text of Torah. It’s facilitating spirituality.’’

Early yesterday morning, Matthew and his family arrived at the synagogue. After posing for photographs, he began to race around the mostly empty building - something he does often around the house, in addition to his regular routine of bouncing balls, riding a scooter, and listening to Disney and Broadway show tunes. When guests arrived, Matthew greeted them with a high-five and an enthusiastic “ha’’ - his way for saying “hi.’’

12.21.11Israel Rocks! Program

A New Model In Jewish Education on the North Shore
Presented in collaboration by Temple Shalom and Temple B’nai Abraham and generously funded by a Jewish Federation of the North Shore Community Innovation Grant JFNS_logo_600_w_Name

Israel Rocks! is a Jewish Identity & Hebrew immersion program for children ages 6-13 years. It is designed to pass on our love of Israel and Judaism through Hebrew language, music, dance, games and food.

The program will teach Hebrew and Jewish culture to the children in a fun “summer camp" club-style format that will use multimedia aides, songs and memory games, all in Hebrew. The kids love the competition, cooperation and the interactive learning atmosphere.

The program was developed and instructed by Temple Shalom’s Cantor Idan Irelander & Rachel Jacobson, one of the most dynamic Jewish Educators on the North Shore.

05.12.11Jewish Journal North of Boston

Sephardic Service in Andover Explores the Universal Language of Music

By Lois Rubin
Staff Writer

The members of Temple Emanuel in Andover will engage in a bit of international diplomacy Friday, May 13, when they celebrate the Sephardic tradition with a musical service written in the mode of Judaism’s Spanish, Middle Eastern and African roots.

This unique concert has been a dream of Cantor Idan Irelander, the temple’s assistant musical director, for several years. Listening to music from the Sephardic tradition while growing up in Israel inspired him to learn more about the many different types of instruments and melodies used by Sephardic Jews around the world.

“The first thing I did was to research and gather material. This took a while, because of the diversity of the music and the scarcity of resources," said Irelander.

Then, he acquired the instruments and learned to play them over several years.

“I had to learn how to play the oud, called a lute in ancient times, the qanun, a descendent of the Arabic harp, and the baglama saz, a Turkish stringed instrument. I added music for Arabic-style violin and then integrated all of them with my usual guitar, cello and percussion ensemble, so I could compose orchestrations and arrangements using the original melodies which use these unique instruments," he said.

Part of the story of this service is the musicians. They hail from Palestine, Jordan, Israel and the U.S. Some of the participants come from homelands that are still at war with Israel.

Irelander expected them to decline the opportunity to perform in a synagogue, but many welcomed the opportunity to explore music as a universal language.

“Music is the comfort of humanity. I’m calling this ensemble the Ahavat Olam Ensemble, or the ‘World Love’ ensemble," said Irelander.

In addition to an evening of beautiful music, the presentation will offer hope to those who believe peace is a real possibility.

Rabbi Robert Goldstein said, “If these musicians can sit together on the bimah (altar) in an American synagogue and play beautiful music together, there is hope for a world free of discord and dissonance, in which people can find harmony and peace."

This concert is part of a larger project.

“My goal is to explore our rich Jewish musical tradition and make it accessible to our community. This project began several years ago with Shabbat Unplugged, an innovative, one-hour Friday night service with arrangements I created," said Irelander.

As a cantor-educator, his goal is to expose the community to different styles of music and to teach them about Jewish communities around the world.

“My next project is ‘Shabbat Around the World.’ I want to create an entire environment where worshipers not only hear the music, but also experience the culture of our diverse Jewish communities," Irelander said.

The program, sponsored by the Rose and David Shack Lectureship Fund, will begin at 7 p.m., and is open to the public.

05.12.11The Andover Townsman

Music, not politics; Middle East musicians perform at Temple Emanuel May 13

By Judy Wakefield
Staff Writer

Music, not politics; Middle East musicians perform at Temple Emanuel May 13

With so much news flowing from the Middle East these days, Temple Emanuel of Andover is encouraging all faiths to take a step back from politics tomorrow night and, instead, enjoy music from faiths around the world.

Cantor Idan Irelander, also the temple's assistant music director, has composed a concert that celebrates what's called "the Sephardic tradition." The concert is a sampling of international music, with a focus on Judaism's Spanish, Middle Eastern and African roots.

"There is no politics here," Irelander said. "I am bringing ancient Jewish music to life."

Irelander grew up in Israel and served in its Army. He remembers learning beautiful Jewish songs from his family. But finding songsheets from those days is difficult, if not impossible.

"I can't find any of those songs," he said. "Those songs, which fathers used to sing to sons, are now out-of-print."

As a result, he composed his own Sephardic concert and sent the music to musicians around the world. They come together for a show Friday, May 13 at 7 p.m. at Temple Emanuel, 7 Haggetts Pond Road. The event is open to the public.

Included in the ensemble are Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian, Israeli and American musicians. Some of the participants come from homelands that are still in conflict with Israel.

"No politics," Irelander emphasized. "This is beautiful Jewish music from around the world."

He added that regardless of the tongue they speak, the players featured in the show communicate using the language they share, which is music. He called music "the only truly universal language."

"When musicians from both sides of the world's most intractable conflicts come together, politics tend to disappear," he said.

Irelander sent a year planning and communicating with the ensemble members and is thrilled that the performance date has finally arrived. The musicians will sit together on the bima (the altar) of an American synagogue and play together. Irelander and others at Temple Emanuel hope this will serve as indication there can be a world free of discord and dissonance, in which all people can live in harmony and peace.

"There is no doubt this will be a truly memorable moment in Temple Emanuel's history," Irelander said.

05.08.11Eagle Tribune

Sabbbath features Sephardic tradition in food, music

By Yadira Betances
Staff writer

ANDOVER — Jews and Muslims will come to the bima at Temple Emanuel next Friday to complement the Shabbat service with a musical Middle Eastern, Sephardic twist.

"Music is the real language of peace. There is no war in music," said Idan Irelander, associate director of music at the temple at 7 Haggetts Pond Road.

Irelander came up with the idea for the service to be held May 13 at 7 p.m. It highlights the Sephardic tradition through food and all liturgical songs in Hebrew from Judaism's Spanish, Middle Eastern and African roots.

"As a cantor, this is something I feel obligated to do to show how Jews celebrate the sabbath with food and melodies," Irelander said.

He has been working on the service for two years, researching the music, instruments used in different countries and writing musical arrangements.

Irelander will direct the ensemble which includes such instruments as qanun, violin and oud.

Joining Irelander, who was born in Israel, will be musicians Tareq Rantisi, a Palestinian; Tala Kayyali, a Jordanian, and Beth Bahia Cohen, who is Syrian. Children from the temple's Hebrew school will also sing.

"I believe that if these musicians can sit together on the bima of an American synagogue and play beautiful music together, there is hope for a world free of discord and dissonance, in which people can live in harmony and peace," Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein wrote in the temple's newsletter.

Growing up in Israel, Irelander enjoyed researching the liturgical music from different parts of the world, which is not heard in the synagogues regularly.

"From this, I always had this dream of having a shabbat with music from around the world," he said.

Irelander, 39, moved to the United States in 1997 to study at Berklee School of Music on a scholarship. He received a bachelor's degree in classical composition and film scoring in 2001 from Berklee. After working as a music teacher and music director, Irelander enrolled at Hebrew College. He earned a master's degree in Jewish education and was ordained as a cantor in 2009.

Irelander has been assistant music director at Temple Emanuel for 12 years. He has also served as spiritual leader of Temple Shalom, a conservative synagogue in Salem, Mass., for the past two years.

Irelander and his wife, Einat, have two children.

11.12.09Jewish Journal North of Boston

How Music Influences Worship and Jewish Identity

By Hazzan Idan Irelander

Music plays a vital part of any identity, tradition and culture, and has the power to affect people, especially children. This is why the music at Jewish summer camps for example, is so powerful among campers. It helps to develop and teach them about their Jewish and cultural identity.

Many of the melodies which we sing today for prayers at synagogue services are either what are referred to as “Mt. Sinai Tunes" (melodies with unknown origin which are very important to Jewish identity, and which we believe were received, along with the Torah, on Mount Sinai) or traditional melodies that were written in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe (e.g. Solomon Sulzer’s setting of the “Sh’ma," Louis Lewandowski’s composition for “Kiddush," etc.).

The word “tradition," especially in the context of Jewish music, is an amusing word. Every generation, every denomination, every region of the country has their own “traditional" songs. Some people think that it represents something old and ancient, something in its purest form. I think what is “traditional" is in the ear of the beholder. When people sing the “traditional" version of “Oseh Shalom," they will likely sing the melody composed by Nurit Hirsh for the 1971 Israel Song Festival.

Certainly, nusach (a system of musical styles/modes or tradition of a community) and tropes (cantillation symbols to guide the chanting of the Torah), represent earlier forms of Jewish music and link us to the melodies of our ancestors. But whenever I introduce a new tune, it has the potential to become a “tradition" as soon as the group learns and embraces it. Hazzanim and other song leaders are responsible for adding to and perpetuating our musical tradition.

In the nineteenth century, Jewish worship split into two directions, one in Eastern Europe and the other in Western Europe. Western European Jewry entered into modern European society. This freedom to integrate with European culture had a significant effect on the music that was performed in the synagogue. The musical style for worship among Eastern European Jews did not change much and was mainly written in solo cantorial mode. The artistry, ability and knowledge of nusach on the part of the cantor were crucial. The style of “davening" (praying) in the Eastern European Jewry style represented a dialogue between the cantor and the congregation. The cantor would chant and the congregation would respond (or vice versa). It was the exact opposite of the choral singing predominant in Western Europe.

On the other hand, Sephardic Jews (Jews who found refuge in the Muslim Mediterranean when they were expelled from Spain in 1492) never adopted the Eastern European cantorial solo performance style. Instead, most of their singing was communal.

In the United States in the 1960s, with the influence of Israel and the pride generated by the Six Day War, there became a demand for more Hebrew and especially Sephardic Hebrew for worship. Jewish summer camps were first to adopt the Sephardic style of community singing, probably without recognizing it came from that worship tradition.

The use of musical instruments in worship connects the older Eastern musical style where the cantor is the soloist and the community sings along. Instruments invite the community to join in singing the melodies. The use of a guitar is preferred because it allows the hazzan or song leader to interact and engage the community, spiritually as well as physically.

As a hazzan, I believe chanting the nusach and the traditional melodies of the synagogue connects us back through time to our ancestors. At the same time, it is also important to embrace new music, new compositions, and new interpretations of that tradition, because they bind the generations together. Nusach is not only the Hazzan’s language, it is the Jewish people’s language in the synagogue. It is a unique language just like languages that we inherited from our forefathers. Ashkenazic Jews for example, speak Yiddish while Sephardic Jews speak Ladino. In the synagogue we pray in Hebrew, and the melody is the nusach.

I don’t want my congregation to only be familiar with music that was written in the last decade. It is important to blend this with the voices of generations past to find an appropriate balance. Each generation produces its own music, just as it produces its own literature and other cultural art forms. It is a continuum, and we should be within that stream as opposed to outside of it.

Music is what keeps a tradition going and supports the development of a religious and community identity. Music also helps people attain a higher level of spirituality. Music is what makes us feel comfortable when we visit the synagogues of different communities and denominations. You will almost always hear in these services familiar tunes such as Hirsch’s “Oseh Shalom," Klepper’s “Shalom Rav" or a Carlebach niggun, and we automatically feel a part of that Jewish community.

The power of good music, in combination with accomplished Hazzanim and song leaders, is essential to a child’s Jewish education.

Our natural love of music and how it touches us through songs and melodies can be used to communicate Jewish values. Songs that have interesting chord patterns, rhythms or even interesting textual concepts, will endure for a long time, just like our religion.

Idan Irelander is the cantor and spiritual leader of Temple Shalom of Salem

07.23.09Jewish Journal North of Boston

Temple Revival Begins with New, Musical Spiritual Leader

By Bette Keva
Jewish Journal Staff

Temple Shalom of Salem is counting on Israeli-born Idan Irelander to lead them into the future.

SALEM — The new leaders of the oldest synagogue on the North Shore are performing a makeover they say will resuscitate their venerable Salem house of worship. The new slate of officers elected in June is aiming to double Temple Shalom’s membership over the next two years, from 120 to 240, with a mix of families and singles.

The temple’s ambitious strategy — besides targeting the unaffiliated and developing relationships with the city and Salem State — is given momentum by its recent hiring of musician and Jewish educator Idan Irelander as its spiritual leader. Temple President

Tom Cheatham believes this is the coup de grace that will end the “growing old small temple" perception that has enveloped the Lafayette Street temple for far too long.

Having officially assumed his position July 1, Irelander, his wife, Einat from Tel Aviv, and their two young children, have been anticipating his new job from across the continents.

“I’m celebrating it in Israel," said the 37-year-old Netanya native, who returns to the Jewish state twice a year to be with family. Among the new crop of recent Hebrew College graduates, Irelander is a cantor who holds a master’s degree in Jewish education. He said he can officially perform all the duties of an ordained rabbi.

“There’s nothing a rabbi can do in his authority that I can’t. I’m member of cantor’s assembly – similar to the rabbinic assembly — of the Conservative movement," said Irelander in a telephone interview from Israel. Since former Rabbi Lee Levin resigned, Irelander has been conducting services, doing the Torah and Haftorah readings, and engaging the congregation in discussions.

The temple’s bold step to break from tradition and hire, for the first time in its century-plus history, a cantor as spiritual leader, has caused some controversy among the membership. Several families who were firm about having a rabbi lead the congregation have left the temple.

Cheatham (who is also on the Board of Overseers of the Jewish Journal) acknowledged that bringing on Irelander is “a high risk hire" and a gamble, but the hope is that he will bring the temple to a new level. “He has a buzz cut, actually a shaved head, wears an earring, plays guitar, is an Israeli, is dynamic, and is dedicated to Conservative Judaism. It’s quite a package. We’re fortunate to have him."

For a decade, Irelander’s music — a blend of Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Moroccan, Yemenite and Israeli cultures — rang out through Temple Emanuel in Andover. As music director, Irelander also worked with 400 Hebrew school children. Robert Goldstein, rabbi of the Reform temple, was lavish in his praise, saying Irelander lifted spirits of the young and old.

As for going from a Reform to a Conservative temple, Irelander is philosophical, “To me we’re all Jews," he said.

His way of connecting the generations is through music, which “is what Jews used to do at the Holy Temple. We’re just bringing it back to the synagogue," he said.

“With no past, there is no future, and we have a very rich past. Judaism is a portable religion, and we need to adjust it to the needs of our community. So by mixing the religion with music, it presents it in new clothing," he added.

It was music that brought Irelander to America, specifically a scholarship to Berklee School of Music, based on a unique CD he recorded in Israel called “Schizophrenic Bass." In Boston he studied composition, arrangement and film scoring, graduating summa cum laude in 2001.

When he plays guitar and sings during his highly anticipated Shabbat Unplugged during Friday night services on August 21 at the temple, his band will likely include three to five fellow musicians on cellos, flute and African drums. Irelander’s Shabbat Unplugged acoustic services include his arrangements of traditional prayers, with lyrics from the Siddur. The band will play upbeat versions of such classic tunes such as “Mi Cha-mo-cha" and “V’A-Hav-ta."

Ben Weiss and his wife are new members of Temple Shalom. In his 30s and active on several fronts, he represents what many temple leaders are hoping will be the newest and hippest spiritual house on the North Shore.

Weiss, along with Cheatham and longtime member Larry Taitlebaum, hope to attract more of what they believe are some 1,000 unaffiliated Jews living in Salem to the temple. “We have a target list of 500 to 600 names in Salem," Cheatham said.

The temple has begun renting space to the city of Salem for a public, bilingual Spanish/English preschool. As one of the most affordable on the North Shore, the temple believes young Jewish families, as well as others, will be moved to register their children for a multi-cultural experience.

“It’s part of our strategy to become a much stronger part of Salem," Cheatham said.

Another is to create a relationship with Salem State College, which does not have a Jewish organization on campus, according to Cheatham.

“We think we can provide that," he said. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could open a Hillel office in our temple for the college?"

Finally, the strong connection that the temple’s new spiritual leader has with Israel, and Irelander’s immersion in the Jewish state’s artistic and cultural life, is another component of the temple’s strategy to become vibrant. Already one Israeli native, Rachel Jacobson, has joined Temple Shalom and is participating in its revival. And the temple has its first bat mitzvah under the new leadership planned for November.

The leaders see this as just the beginning.

(Sylvia Rosen contributed to this story)

07.06.09The Salem News

After a year, temple finds new leader

By Tom Dalton
Staff writer

SALEM — Temple Shalom is gaining a lot in Idan Irelander.

The temple's new spiritual leader, it turns out, is both a cantor educator and a talented musician.

"Actually, I came to this country as a musician," said Irelander, 37, a native of Israel.

Irelander, who plays guitar and other instruments, enrolled in a music conservatory at age 6, once played with Yehoram Gaon, whom he described as the "Frank Sinatra of Israel," and came to this country to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He has been music director and song leader at several North Shore temples, and currently holds that title at a reform synagogue in Andover.

Last month, Temple Shalom, a small, conservative congregation, named Irelander its "spiritual leader," a relatively new concept for temples in this area. He is a recent graduate of Hebrew College in Newton and, as a cantor educator, performs the same role as a rabbi or cantor.

"I just did a baby-naming," he said.

At present, it is a part-time position, although the temple hopes to make him full time.

Irelander replaces Rabbi Lee Levin, who stepped down in August due to health reasons. He began leading services at the Salem temple last fall as a cantorial student.

For the temple, which has been without a rabbi for almost a year, this is a large step forward.

"I think it is a turning point for renewing the temple," said Thomas Cheatham, the board president. "It is a significant event for us."

Irelander has already made his presence felt. He has been an enthusiastic leader of a torah discussion group, a versatile musician who led "Shabbat Unplugged" music nights, and is a married father with two young children — just the demographic the temple hopes to attract.

He also plans to launch several new programs for young adults.

"Our strategy is really to grow the membership, and we think we have the opportunity here with Idan to attract a lot of the unaffiliated Salem Jews, who are much more numerous than any of us realize," Cheatham said. "Lots of young families find Salem affordable and have moved in and don't belong anywhere."

For Irelander, Temple Shalom is an exciting opportunity.

"I love this place," he said. "We call ourselves 'the little shul with the big heart.' We want to reach out to the whole Salem community."

02.19.07The Jerusalem Post By Jpost Staff

'Shabbat Unplugged' rides trend of hipper music at services

Composer/arranger Idan Irelander, The Religious School Music Director at Temple Emanuel in Andover, Massachusetts is the creator of a new and Friday evening service called "Shabbat Unplugged".

Judy Wakefield, a writer for the Andover Townsman newspaper has called it "The Sabbath with an MTV twist, "Shabbat Unplugged" rides trend of hipper music at services. The spiritual journey mixes music and prose on Friday nights, just as has been happening for years at several congregations in Andover."

According to Rabbi Robert Goldstein of Temple Emanuel, "It's a new trend in liturgy, offering worshipers a chance to relax a bit as they prepare for prayers. And people like it."

This experience is an opportunity to rediscover the spirit of the Sabbath with an evening of soulful music and insightful prose.

Irelander and the Temple's Youth Chorus have joined together on "Shacharit Inplugged", a CD filled with inspiring prayers, vocals, musical arrangements, and compositions in a lively manner. Irelander is the composer, arranger and the creator of the CD, or as in Idan's own words: "To "Inplugged" our children as well as our adults to Judaism, to God."

The "Shacharit Inplugged" CD features the morning prayers such as: Ash-rey; Bar-Chu; Sh'ma; Ka-Dosh, Ka-Dosh, Ka-Dosh; Halleluyah!; Mah Tovu; V'Ahavta; Mode Ani; Birchot Ha-sha-char (For Our Blessings); Mi Cha-mo-cha, and more.

Irelander was born in Netanya, Israel and has performed and arranged several albums for Israeli musicians as well as for his own solo album, "Schizophrenic Bass", a unique work which features Idan's virtuosity on the bass. After becoming a Berklee College of Music B.E.S.T. scholarship recipient, Idan left Israel in 1997 to study in Boston.

In 2001, he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Berklee College of Music and received two prestigious awards including the Award for Composition Excellence and the Award for Achievement in Film Scoring.

Recently, Irelander was added to the Jewish composers catalog of "Beth Hatefutsoth", the museum of the Jewish people and the Diaspora in Tel Aviv, Israel.

To visit Idan Irelander's website go to: www.IrelanderMusic.com

10.05.06Judy Wakefield - Andover Townsman

"The Sabbath with an MTV twist
"Shabbat Unplugged" rides trend of hipper music at services"

Wearing Yarmulkes at the front of this temple, the contemporary band sounded hip in Hebrew as they played for the crowd.
The band was part of Shabbat Unplugged" (mimicking the famed "Unplugged" MTV music series that spotlights well-known singers and bands), which is being well-received at Andover's Temple Emanuel on Haggetts Pond Road. The spiritual journey mixes music and prose on Friday nights, just as has been happening for years at several congregations in Andover.
"It's a new trend in liturgy, offering worshipers a chance to relax a bit as they prepare for prayers," said Rabbi Robert Goldstein of Temple Emanuel. "And people like it."
Held last Friday night starting at 6, between two religious holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), the focus was gratitude as the sun began to set and the Shabbat set in.
Even with its MTV-take on the name, there is nothing pop-culturish about "Shabbat Unplugged," as worshipers here gave thanks for all the good things in their lives.
The celebration kicked off with a short, simple wine-and-cheese reception before the guests entered their worship space. There, music, hand-clapping and head-popping awaited as a five-piece contemporary band sang Hebrew songs. Temple Emanuel's music director, Idan Irelander, was in charge of the music.
"It's a way to reach out to families. It's the time of day when families are together, spending time together," Goldstein said. "All congregations are looking for ways to bring families together these days, as families want that, whether it is a church or here."
The spiritual side of this service started immediately as the welcoming prayer called walking through the temple's doorway a walk toward "a richer and more meaningful life."
The Risman family of Andover attended their first "Shabbat Unplugged" for that reason. "I think it's a great way to reach out to families and a good way for families to pray together," Amy Risman said of the service. She was with her husband, Henry, and their son, Adam, 13.
Adam led a prayer in Hebrew as he is preparing for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. "It's a chance to begin your weekend on the right note," the temple's advertisement for holiday services proclaimed. Goldstein says it's going over quite well.

05.12.06 The Jewish Advocate

Music Director at Temple Makes CD

ANDOVER - Idan Irelander, The Religious School Music Director at Temple Emanuel, and the Temple’s Youth Chorus have joined together on "Shacharit Inplugged," a CD compilation filled with inspiring prayers, vocals, musical arrangements, and compositions.

"Shacharit Inplugged" is available at www.IrelanderMusic.com, the Temple Emanuel gift shop, at the Israel Book Shop and at Kolbo Fine Judaica in Brookline.

05.01.06Keren Engelberg, Calendar Editor - Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

Monday, May 1

"For those who need a little Bar-Chu on-the-go, religious school music teacher Idan Irelander, of Temple Emanuel in Andover, Mass., and the temple’s Youth Chorus have recently come together to record “Shacharit Inplugged." The CD features morning prayers like Ashrei and the Shema recorded with a live and spirited sound."

$18. www.IrelanderMusic.com.

04.30.06Diana Brown - Boston Globe

"Making Music Together:"

Temple Emanuel's religious school music director Idan Irelander and the Andover temple's youth chorus have recorded a compact disc called "Shacharit Inplugged," which includes prayer and music. This is not Irelander's first album. The Israeli-born musician has recorded several including his solo album, "Schizophrenic Bass."
Irelander graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music in 2001 and received two awards there for composition excellence and achievement in film scoring. For the new album, he composed, arranged, and performed lead vocals, back vocals, electric bass, acoustic guitar and drums along with David Nathan, Justin Slusher, Yuval Edoot, and Amir Efrat.

04.21.06Susan Jacobs - Jewish Journal North of Boston

"Idan Irelander
Israeli Musician Injects Ruach Into Andover Temple Services"

Idan Irelander knows how to get a crowd grooving. Although the 34-year-old Israeli has played many local clubs and venues, he particularly enjoys taking the stage at Temple Emanuel in Andover, where he and a group of musicians orchestrate a lively Shabbat Unplugged service once per month. The event, which draws a multi-generational crowd of 150 people, will soon be expanded to twice per month.

“It’s a very cool service," explains Irelander. “We do new arrangements of traditional prayers. It’s educational because all the lyrics come from the siddur. It’s a friendly way to celebrate Shabbat, and a great way to learn and sing Jewish prayers."

Irelander’s compositions are infused with an eclectic combination of rock, jazz, pop and Middle Eastern influences. His five-piece ensemble, which includes a bassoonist, trumpeter and cellist, performs the Shabbat Unplugged service acoustically, doing upbeat versions of classic Jewish tunes such as “Mi Cha-mo-cha" and “V’A-Hav-ta."

Temple Rabbi Robert Goldstein is lavish in his praise of Irelander, who has served as assistant music director of the Reform congregation for the past six years. “Idan has tremendous spirit and passion, and his love of music is infectious. He lifts our souls to a higher level," says Goldstein, who notes that Irelander’s music appeals to all members of the congregation.

“Kids respond immediately, but adults in their 80s love him, too," says the rabbi. “I notice that the first time adults come to Shabbat Unplugged, they may sit passively in their seats and watch. The second time, they may hum along. But by the third time, they are singing enthusiastically."

Irelander, who has also worked at Temples Beth Shalom and Ner Tamid in Peabody, and Temple Tifereth Israel in Malden, holds a degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston. He studied composition, arrangement and film scoring, graduating summa cum laude in 2001.

“In Israel, I played with many bands and musicians, but I wanted to formally study music and get a degree. I received a scholarship to study at Berklee based upon a unique CD I recorded in Israel several years ago, called ‘Schizophrenic Bass,’ which featured up to four bass guitars at a time," says Irelander, who sings and plays bass, as well as acoustic guitar and keyboards.

When he first arrived in the United States, Irelander played with various bands and toured the East Coast with a group called the Pleasure Bombs. Although he still occasionally jams with rock musicians, his primary focus now is Jewish music.

“My background is rock and pop, but I have turned myself around with the religious stuff. I now devote myself primarily to Jewish music, but I take it to the next level," he says.

Irelander just came out with a CD, entitled “Shacharit Inplugged," where he and the Temple Emanuel Youth Chorus perform traditional prayers arranged in a lively manner. Irelander hopes to produce a “Shabbat Unplugged" CD in the near future.

Another future plan involves cantorial study. Irelander was recently accepted to the cantor educator program at Hebrew College in Newton, where he will begin this fall. The coursework will lead to both a master’s of Jewish education, and a cantorial arts (ordination) certification.

Rabbi Goldstein is quick to point out that the temple is not looking for Irelander to replace longtime Cantor Donn Rosensweig, but he acknowledges that Irelander, his wife Einat (who teaches Hebrew at Temple Emanuel’s religious school), and seven-month-old daughter, Yahli, have endeared themselves to the congregation.

“We got a package with him and his wife, and they have certainly become part of our family," says Rabbi Goldstein.

04.18.06Temple Emanuel - Press Release


ANDOVER, MA, April 18, 2006 – Idan Irelander, The Religious School Music Director at Temple Emanuel in Andover and the Temple’s Youth Chorus have joined together on Shacharit Inplugged, a CD filled with inspiring prayers, vocals, musical arrangements, and compositions. Idan is the composer, arranger and the creator of the “Shacharit Inplugged" CD featuring prayers such as: Ash-rey; Bar-Chu; Sh’ma; Ka-Dosh, Ka-Dosh, Ka-Dosh; Halleluyah!; Mah Tovu; V’Ahavta; Mode Ani; Birchot Ha-sha-char (For Our Blessings); Mi Cha-mo-cha, and more.

“We are so proud of this wonderful CD that Idan has created with our students. It is so exciting to have a person like Idan with so much talent leading our students and getting them excited about singing with such “Ruach" (spirit)," said Emily Andreano, Temple Emanuel Religious School Director. “Idan is a very well known musician in Israel and we are very fortunate to have him on our staff and very proud of this wonderful accomplishment."

Irelander was born in Netanya, Israel and has performed and arranged several albums for Israel musicians as well as for his own solo album, Schizophrenic Bass, a unique work which features Idan’s virtuosity on the bass. In 2001, he graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music and received two prestigious awards including the Award for Composition Excellence and the Award for Achievement in Film Scoring.

Idan composed, arranged, and performed the lead vocals, backing vocals, electric bass, acoustic guitar and drums programming and enlisted the assistance of several other talented musicians including David Nathan who played keyboard and piano, Justin Slusher who play electric and acoustic guitars, Yuval Edoot who played percussions and Amir Efrat, who provided the mixing as well as additional programming.

The Shacharit Inplugged CD is available at www.IrelanderMusic.com, the Temple Emanuel gift shop in Andover, The Israel Book Shop and Kolbo Fine Judaica in Brookline, MA

Temple Emanuel, a Reform congregation now located in Andover, Massachusetts, was founded in Lawrence, MA in 1920 by a group of 30 families. Today, under Rabbi Robert Goldstein’s guidance Temple Emanuel has a membership of over 660 families with more than 400 children in the Religious School. The congregation supports a full complement of programs, from “Holiday Happenings" to its highly regarded pre-school, from youth programming to bereavement support and everything in between. The Temple's Sisterhood and Brotherhood, as well as the Junior and Senior Youth Groups (TEMTY), maintain a full calendar of social and cultural activities. For more information, call Temple Emanuel at 978-470-1356 or visit www.templemanuel.net.