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AJ continues tradition of fun-filled Selichot programs for a cause

AJ continues tradition of fun-filled Selichot programs for a cause

by Phyllis Shaikun, Special to Community

For the ninth consecutive year, Cantor David Lipp has turned Congregation Adath Jeshurun’s pre-Selichot service on the Saturday evening before Rosh Hashanah into a much anticipated event that has proven a win-win not only for those in need, but for members of Louisville’s various communities of faith that appreciate the opportunity to take part. The Selichot service consists of prayers and poems chanted to help the worshippers prepare for the coming High Holy Days.

For Selichot each year, the cantor invites a not-for-profit group to come to the service to tell its story. The purpose is twofold: to allow the selected group to broadcast its needs to a wider audience and, hopefully, to encourage those in attendance to think about providing some needed monetary support for them in return.

This year’s highlighted group was the Academy at St. Andrews, a special school for children with autism located just across the street from the synagogue. (The school will be relocating to the Bluegrass Center for Autism soon.) The Academy’s mission has special significance for Adath Jeshurun’s Rabbi Robert Slosberg, since he shared he has two nephews who are autistic and is familiar with the impact the condition can have on a family.

Following the brief Havdalah service, WAVE3 television personality Dawne Gee took over as master of ceremonies. She set the tone for the evening when she said, “Whoever we are, we belong to each other.”

A local bluegrass group, Storefront Congregation, provided the musical accompaniment for the program, which was entitled “Going the Distance for the Academy” and featured tunes from Disney movies including Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas. Children in the audience especially enjoyed the musical selections, which featured vocalists Jennifer Diamond and John Gage. The always-versatile cantor sang Under the Sea Harry Belafonte-style and had folks clapping in their seats.

A moving moment came when Sarah Ramsey, the parent of a young child with autism, told the story of her son, Matthew, from his autism diagnosis to how his life turned around as a result of attending the Academy. Teacher Kristin Bern spoke as well and explained how she and the school’s other 34 staff members (there are 33 students) work as a team with special educators and parents with the goal of providing positive reinforcement that allows students to become functioning, independent adults.

Congressman John Yarmuth announced that $600,000 has been raised to support autism-related programs and he looks forward to that figure being six million dollars some day for the Louisville school.

Cantor Lipp ended the evening with “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

He also has friends who make attendance at AJ’s pre-Selichot service a must-see. The music is memorable (there’s a different theme every year), the event is free and the opportunity to make a difference for someone who needs it makes the service a winner for everyone involved.

A dessert reception ended the first part of the evening and the Selichot service began at 10:30 p.m.

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