June/July 2023L'CHAIM

Drumming in Jewish Circles


By Mimi [Miriam] Pollack

In the book “Miriam’s Tambourine: Jewish Folktales from Around the World” (1988), edited by Prof. Howard Schwartz, Miriam’s drum had magical abilities. Taken from a 19th-century Eastern European folktale, Schwartz writes that the music from Miriam’s drum drove off serpents and kept Miriam herself in eternal life. Today’s drumming circles may not ward off snakes, but they certainly can help you release stress while you listen, drum along, and share the experience with others. Recently, this Miriam discovered two drumming circles at Temple Emanu-El and at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center. No experience is needed for either one.

Once a month, on Tuesday afternoons, Temple Emanu-El offers an informal drumming circle where everyone is welcome. Led by Leanne Pearl and organized by Bonnie Baron, this drum circle began approximately four years ago. Most who attend are members of Emanu-El, but the circle is open to all. Baron came up with the idea to form a drum circle at the temple, and asked Pearl if she would lead it, after seeing her drum impressively at several high holy services. Baron recruited people to the circle by writing in the Shabbat Announcements in the synagogue’s monthly bulletin and by word of mouth. She also emails reminders to everyone.

When asked what the drum circle meant to them, Kathy Beitscher mentioned that she always leaves feeling better after drumming and she likes learning something new and musical. Ira Moskowitz said that he thinks that rhythmic drumming is a unique and effortless way to express non-verbal polite communication. He recommends it to those who want to find an outlet for expression and relaxation. Finally, Suzanne Moss- High related that drumming for her has been a wonderful break from the pulls and demands of life where one can feel a different sort of rhythm and develop another upbeat story. They all feel that working in collaboration with no judgement can be rewarding.

The group started with four drummers and has grown to 8+ drummers. Their goal is to enlarge the circle and invite other community members to attend. Attendees do not have to bring a drum as one will be provided unless they are inspired to bring their own. This drum circle is usually held on the last Tuesday of each month at 3 p.m. in the courtyard of the temple. Participants are asked to donate $10. Baron’s email is bonnieebaron@gmail.com

At the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, the drumming circle is a two-class event, held several times a year, under a canopy near the tennis courts. These classes are held on two consecutive Fridays from 11 a.m. to noon. The next events are scheduled for September 1 and September 8, but check the JCC website as most likely, there will also be classes in July. Although listed in the senior section, the class is open to all.

Led by the charismatic, expressive arts therapist and certified drum instructor, Galit Shezifi, this drumming circle seems a little more interactive. Participants can choose an instrument from a table that is set up behind, and then join into drumming the various beats, including Middle Eastern among others. On the day I went, one of the beats was Egyptian. Shezifi who was born and raised in Israel of Jewish Moroccan parents says that Moroccan drumming is also very expressive. She says that for Moroccan Jews, every life cycle event is frequently celebrated with a drumbeat.

Several of the participants mentioned how drumming can connect people organically and noted that the workshop helped them open the rigid side of the brain with a new learning, reducing stress and gaining confidence. Char Katz said that what she liked about the drumming circle at the JCC was that it was more “feeling based” as opposed to “teaching based,” which seemed to appeal greatly to the group. She believes that playing drums is something that has no limits, especially with a facilitator like Shezifi.

Finally, Shezifi herself is passionate about bringing the health benefits and joy of recreational drumming to the community through the public workshops and team-building events she facilitates.  Her website is www.galitgigi.com.



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