I love you, Dad, with your unassuming ways.

I love you for all the small ways you express your love for your family, like setting out prayer books for each one of us prior to the start of services each Shabbat, even though some of us may not walk through the door for another hour-and-a-half.

I’m thankful for everything you and Mom did in encouraging me to pursue my cello and musicology studies all the way through graduate school. I don’t know many other parents who would be as supportive of their child pursuing multiple degrees in a field as notoriously unemployable as music.

I’m proud of you, especially when watching you on the bimah (podium) each week leading services as the chazzan, or shaliach tzibbur. Not everyone truly appreciates the important role that a chazzan plays during services, carrying the congregation on a spiritual journey by leading its voices in song. I appreciate it, though, not only because I’m a musician, but also because of you. When we moved back to the Boston area from New York and were looking to purchase a home, it was important to me that we moved within walking distance of our family shul, the one where I grew up attending services every week, so that we could see you in action. In an Orthodox shul, where women don’t participate in leading the service, I feel that my daughter and I have an “in” by which we can offer up tunes that we’d like to hear. How proud you make me and your granddaughter every week! If there is such a thing as a child having nachat (pride and joy) from her parent, then that is what I get from you.

The role of chazzan is one you perform selflessly, and this really only scratches the surface of your responsibilities in our shul. Our community most certainly appreciates all that you do, knowing that, with you around, services will run like a well-oiled machine. What’s more impressive is your humility, even as you do what you do best. Your singing isn’t flashy, but pure: pure of voice, pure of heart and pure of intention in praise of God.

Laura Shechter’s father imparts the joy of Jewish song to a new generation, 2010. (Courtesy photo)
Laura Shechter’s father imparts the joy of Jewish song to a new generation, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

Going hand in hand with your singing voice comes your powerful speaking voice, a voice so full of expression that I’d still ask you to tell me bedtime stories well past an age when most kids’ parents would do so. I especially loved when you’d regale me with tales from the Bible in the car on my way back from Hebrew school. I remember always wanting more, more, more, wishing the car ride wouldn’t come to an end while you were bringing these stories to life. Everything about you oozed Yiddishkeit (Jewishness), and I was soaking it all in.

I’m sometimes asked how it is that I have all the verses of the traditional Shabbat zemirot (songs) memorized. Some of it has to do with a predisposition that also led to my becoming a musician, but it’s more that these songs were a part of my upbringing from the very beginning; some of my earliest memories are of singing zemirot on Friday nights, while bouncing on your knee. These songs are ingrained in me permanently, forming the foundation of a Jewish soul and a Jewish way of life.

Because of the strong Jewish upbringing I received, I feel well equipped to pass this on to the next generation. For as long as I can remember, I have always considered myself your sidekick at the Passover seder. Now, though, it seems that I am quickly ceding that role to my daughter—perhaps reluctantly, but the nachat I receive in return more than compensates.

Dad, what I most cherish about our relationship is the love of God and Yiddishkeit we share, that you instilled in me from before I can remember. You taught me my alef-bet, you taught me how to daven (pray), you taught me how to chant the Haftarah, and you instilled in me the deepest, lifelong love of all that Judaism has to offer by demonstrating the critical role played by song in praising our Creator. I’ll always be that little girl singing zemirot by your side.

Thank you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day.

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