By Talia Levin ‘20
It is now a normal sight to walk into the cafeteria on a Friday morning and see a table of students passionately singing Jewish songs. The Heschel tisches are a new development. Held on some Friday mornings, the Music Minyan has planned tisches that are open to the whole high school. They consist of traditional Jewish singing in preparation for Shabbat. At the schoolwide Shabbaton in November, there was a rousing tisch Friday night. The students who attended, including many Yavneh and Ramah campers, enthusiastically sang Jewish songs in the classic style. For many, it was a highlight of the Shabbaton, including for Haddar Kaplun, a senior in the Music Minyan. He suggested that we continue to hold tisches following the positive experience at the Shabbaton. “It was very powerful,” Kaplun said. “A lot of people came and a lot of people were enthusiastic.” This motivated him to organize tisches during the rest of the school year. One was held during Hanukkah and another in mid-January.
Sophomore Odelya Kalmanofsky is a huge fan of tisches in general, including the Heschel ones. She felt the Shabbaton tisch was the “most campy” and was excited about future tisches. She explained that “they have gone really well.” While she loves the tisches, however, Kalmanofsky expressed that they felt too spur of the moment. “I think they should raise more awareness about it.” She also worried that there may be people attending who just want to get out of t’fillah and did not genuinely want to attend the tisch. Kaplun, on the other hand, felt that “Most, if not all, of the people who are there what to be there… Not because it’s a requirement.” He found that elevated the experience for him.
Another concern was raised by Sarah Zipkowitz, a junior, who has had other comparable tisch experiences. While she found them to be “fun and lively” she remarked that she’s “been to a lot more meaningful tisches before, where [there was] a community that was tight-knit.” She struggled with how the students at the tisches come from many backgrounds and do not necessarily know each other.
Johanna Press, who was at the time leading the Music Minyan, supported the students’ ideas for having tisches. In addition to the power of a tisch she mentioned how unique one at Heschel is. “A lot of the people who are coming to the tisch at school are bringing songs from other places that are really meaningful for them…and learning from each other creates a new experience that we get to have together.” The diverse Jewish backgrounds of the student body lend itself to lots of musical knowledge and options.
There have been mixed feelings about the timing of the tisches. Kaplun expressed that it was difficult to have them so early in the morning at the end of the week, while Press said that “It’s a great opportunity to gather and welcome Shabbat in school.” While the timing may be difficult for some, there is still a substantially higher level of spirit than what could be found otherwise on a Friday morning.
The tisches have been met with much enthusiasm by students who have attended them. Senior Shoshana Scheinberg stated that “it was a really fun experience to reconnect with my camp community and learn about others through Jewish songs.” Attendees also enjoy the change in their typical t’fillah routine and the unique opportunity presented. Kaplun explained that there will be more tisches in the future and that Heschel students “should keep the tisches going in future years.”