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A concert of Jewish music on November 22 at Temple Shalom featured national touring artist Josh Nelson and Lexington’s Shir Adat. Nelson wowed the audience with his strong voice, multi-instrumental talent and ability to touch the soul of the concert-goer.
But his show wasn’t entirely serious. At one point, he asked the audience if it was difficult to be Jewish in Louisville. The audience responded with a resounding, “No!” He said he was glad to hear it, but one audience member lamented that there is no Jewish deli in town. Nelson said, “Well, there are several in New York that ship!”
The show included spiritual music familiar to the audience as well as many songs he had written himself, including a sweet lullaby for his son.
Nelson said he visits about 40 synagogues and JCCs each year and he loves touring in smaller towns. “In smaller towns, there is a greater need for Jewish cultural experiences,” he said. “It’s more important. It’s extraordinary to see communities together. Shared experiences tighten communities. It’s great to be a facilitator of that.”
After the show, he spoke with people who noshed on snacks with him. “I love the interpersonal connection: meeting people and hearing their stories, building relationships,” he said. “It’s validating both ways (for Nelson and the people he talks to).”
Cantor Sharon Hordes, Cantor David Lipp and Rabbinic Intern Jessica Wainer got to sing on stage for one song with Nelson.
“It was so much fun!” Hordes said after the show. “When I get to do stuff like that, I always say it’s like baseball fantasy camp. I get to get up there and pretend I’m a rock star then come back to my regular life.”
But Hordes said the show fills an important need in the community. “There are so many talented Jewish singers and songwriters making names for themselves on the national and international level,” she said. “It’s very important to take advantage of that talent when it comes here.”
Opening for Nelson was Shir Adat, the choir from Temple Adath Israel in Lexington. The group sang traditional songs of worship along with well-known songs, such as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and even a fun Chanukah song, “Candlelight” by the Maccabeats.
Colby Cohen-Archer said singing with Shir Adat gives her a great sense of camaraderie, feeling the prayers together.
“It’s wonderful to know we’re contributing to people’s spiritual experience,” she said.
Mark Wiljanen agreed. “I like singing with Shir Adat because of the community of voices, and we’ve developed friendships, it’s a community of fellow singers,” he said. He said he’s visited Temple Shalom before. “I love this temple. Everyone here is so friendly.”
Hordes said supporting Jewish music is important. “This time of year we hear Christmas music and we say we wish there were some great Chanukah songs,” she said. “But there are so many new Chanukah songs out there. We just need to support the movement of great art and teach it through the generations.”
Marc Salmon, a board member at Temple Shalom, was the emcee for the evening. “I loved the show. You just couldn’t beat the music,” he said.
Josh Nelson will star in the upcoming off-Broadway musical, “Soul Doctor: The Musical Journey of Shlomo Carlebach.”