Cantor Jordan Franzel of Congregation Or Ami, a Reform synagogue in Layfayatte Hill, has started a family tradition: Every time one of his nieces or nephews becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, he sets a piece of Jewish liturgy to original music and performs the song as part of the ceremony.
In June, his youngest niece will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah at the Parsippany, N.J., synagogue where his father was the onetime rabbi. (His brother Ethan also happens to be a rabbi and works along with Rabbi David Straus at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood.
This time, he chose a section from the Reform movement prayerbook, Mishkan T'filah, that lists many of the mitzvot, including some that many might not know count as mitzvot, such as attending a wedding or funeral.
“These are mitzvot that I teach my kids at my congregation and that they will have the opportunity to do though most of their lives,” he said. “I think as a Bat Mitzvah or Bar Mitzvah one should know what types of things count as Mitzvah, because as a Bar Mitzvah you should be responsible for doing the mitzvot. I wanted to make sure that people know about the very important ones.”
The cantor thought that the words and melodies potentially had meaning not just for his niece and her family, but for his entire congregation. He recorded the song in his makeshift home studio and created an accompanying video through the iMovie software. (He’s also tried his hand at animation and has created a Purim skit for the web.) And he emailed the YouTube clip to the entire congregation.
Using technology to reach the congregation, he said, helps “teach them in a different way.”