Sunday I told the missus I was thinking of converting to Judaism, till she reminded me I am, in fact, one of the Chosen People. Hunh. Really need to get to synagogue more; hey, I drive by it every day. But I'd go, swear to...well, ya know, if services were conducted by Joshua Nelson, the New Jersey Hebrew school teacher who has performed for Oprah Winfrey, looks like local poker star David Williams and sings like gospel icon Mahalia Jackson (and Ray Charles and Harry Belafonte), even though his repetoire is performed almost entirely in Hebrew and consists of ancient Saturday-morning and High Holiday service staples, among them "Adon Olam" and "Hineh Ma Tov." Nelson performed Sunday at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, where he was joined by choirs from not only Temple Emanu-El and Temple Shalom, but also the Greater Peoples Missionary Baptist Church in southern Dallas, which created the most kosher gospel choir in the city's history. What coulda been a hammy gimmick (well...) is kinda miraculous; I expected the dude to part the the Red Sea halfway through the show. Hey, the rabbi wants me to come back to synagogue, all he's gotta do is hire Jackson. Done deal.
A few other observations from the 10th Annual Jewish Arts Fest: Ran into the kids from Students Against Terrorism and even got one of their popular blue "Standstrong 4 Israel" bracelets, some 15,000 of which have been sold across the globe, they claim. All I had to do was sign up for the e-mailing list; didn't say you had to use your real name. So, a note to Maxine Thornton-Reese: Expect some missives from the kids at Yavneh Academy any day now; they'll appreciate the suppport. And I picked up some literature from the Republican Jewish Coalition of Dallas, which is headed by Bob Epstein--whose kid, Barak, makes low-budget, Troma-inspired horror parodies with such titles as Prison-A-Go-Go! and Cornman: American Vegetable Hero. "Barak's not a Republican," says his pops; what gave it away? And I ran into my old rabbi, who didn't guilt me for not coming to synagogue since, oh, the mayor was a shiksa. Really appreciated that. --Robert Wilonsky
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Joshua Nelson & The Kosher Gospel Singers, "Adom Olam" (from the 2005 album Mi Chamocha?)