The local artists will be helping to navigate an all-night event remembering what occurred before the sunrise presentation of the Ten Commandments.
A singer-songwriter, a playwright-author and a producer — all raised in Metro Detroit — will be part of an international digital program celebrating the holiday of Shavuot.
They will be helping to navigate an all-night event remembering what occurred before the sunrise presentation of the Ten Commandments.
DAWN: A Cosmic Reunion spotlights singer-songwriter Ethan Davidson performing two songs with his wife, Gretchen. Also featured will be playwright-author Brooke Berman, who will recite a narrative she created just for the holiday event.
Francine Hermelin Levite participates behind the scenes as executive producer of 12 hours of music, film, comedy, dance and instruction that run 9 p.m.-9 a.m., Sunday night to Monday morning, May 16-17. It is sponsored by Reboot, a New York-based arts and culture nonprofit that reimagines and reinforces Jewish thought and traditions.
“I love this idea for Shavuot recalling the anticipation of the Torah being received,” said Hermelin Levite, a New Yorker who went to Hillel Day School and the University of Michigan while being active in Congregation Shaarey Zedek. “Spending a night in contemplation mixed with the anticipation of newness is an exciting concept.”
The Davidsons will present two songs: Davidson’s “Till the Light Comes Shining In” and John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.”
“The first song is like waiting for the sunrise at the foot of Sinai,” said Davidson, who is a director and Grants Committee chair of the Birmingham-based William Davidson Foundation and board chairman of the Michigan Opera Theatre. “Also, we’re waiting for the sun to rise after this pandemic, and we hope that will be soon.”
Davidson is performing the second song because Prine was a hero of his, one of his favorite singer-songwriters. Prine died of COVID-19 fairly early on in the pandemic, but lyrics he left behind relate to the purpose of Shavuot: “Just give me one thing that I can hold on to” is repeated throughout the song.
Soul of Shavuot
“Shavuot is [thought to be] when all of us were alive at the time or were Jewish souls waiting to be born,” Davidson said about ideas associated with the holiday. “We were all there at the foot of Sinai waiting to have our collective encounter with the Divine.
“It’s something that’s always accessible to us whether it’s through Torah study or acts of chesed [giving of oneself with compassion]. We can always hear an echo of that voice from Sinai. We carry it with us through our lives as Jews.
“In another sense, it’s kind of fun to stay up all night with friends, study and wait until the sun comes up.”
Berman, now a New Yorker who joined her family at Temple Beth El while growing up in Michigan, is thinking about all the metaphors that can be used in this presentation.
“I haven’t unpacked the metaphors yet,” said Berman, whose personal experiences are recalled in her book No Place Like Home: A Memoir in 39 Apartments published by Harmony Books and whose play 1300 Lafayette East was premiered at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre.
Berman is thinking about who we need to be when the sun rises.
“The older I get, the more I become interested in time,” said Berman, who has two plays and two films in development and teaches playwriting at New York University and Bard College.
Reboot is producing DAWN in partnership with the Jewish Emergent Network, which promotes collaboration among seven communities across the United States, and LABA, a global laboratory for Jewish culture, as participants mark the breaking of the holiday dawn in each of the distant locales offered the festival.
“Shavuot is a huge, incredible holiday and so intrinsic to the Jewish experience … [with] so many ways to interpret it and inspire,” said David Katznelson, Reboot CEO. “By reimagining the all-night study and presenting it in this new and magical way, we provide a portal of entry to this mighty holiday.”
To get a link to the program, with an entertainment schedule, go to DAWNFestival.org.