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Sariel and Jerry Interview

Sariel and Jerry are intrinsic to the fabric of Tehillah, these two individuals who make their way from Colorado each fall to bring the music of the High Holidays to Tehillah and create a worship service that soars.  We thank Sariel and Jerry for their musical gifts, but even more for the love and care for the community that they embody.

With that in mind, we wanted to give all of you an opportunity to get to know them a little better by sharing this recent interview with Sariel and Jerry.  We are grateful for their openness.

Rabbi Linda: Tell us how you met.
Sariel and Jerry: We met at the LGBT center in Manhattan in 1996. We started in a professional relationship when Jerry directed Sariel’s one-man show which we took to Israel and back to NYC. The rest is history.
Rabbi Linda: What does your partnership bring to your creative process?
Sariel & Jerry: We have an intuitive understanding of where we are going musically. There is a lot of support towards one another and our inspiration comes from the congregation.
Rabbi Linda: Tell us who wrote that wonderful Lecha Dodi? (which you can listen to here)

Sariel & Jerry: The Lecha Dodi was written by Sariel.  it was originally composed for a wedding of lesbian friends of ours.  The lyrics changed to “Boie Kala  Boie Kala”.  It was sung as they were walking down the aisle, originally the tempo was slow.  Later Jerry arranged the music to fit Friday night services and gave it a more upbeat sound.

Rabbi Linda: How did you first get involved in Congregation Tehillah and why do you come back every year for High Holy Days?
Sariel & Jerry: We first started going when we moved to Westchester from Putnam county.  We were looking for a spiritual community with strong musical roots.  We heard about Congregation Tehillah and came to Kabbalat Shabbat services in 2003. We led our first services in 2004, and never left.
Rabbi Linda: What is your favorite part of Tehillah High Holy Days?  Is there a High Holy Day prayer you find most meaningful to you?

Jerry: Being able to include my family’s original kedusha, and birkat ha cohanim.
Sariel: The Un Taneh Tokef-written by Israeli  composer YAIR Rosenblum.

Rabbi Linda:  Not only do you return every year for High Holidays, you come in all the way from Colorado to do so and continue to be invested in making the service the best it can be.  What motives your exemplary commitment?
Sariel & Jerry:  The love for the community.  Our community is very special in all the time that we have lived in Denver we have not found the spirit and the Love that we find at Tehillah.
Rabbi Linda: What music do you listen to (Jewish or not)?
Sariel & Jerry: Israeli music, show tunes, opera and classical.
Rabbi Linda: What social justice issue are you active in right now?  Why are you passionate about it?

Sariel: Israeli/Palestinian issues. Being an Israeli who lived through the Six day war and later fought in the Yom Kippur war, There is nothing more I want than seeing a complete peace between Israelis and Palestinians and that both nations live side by side in harmony and respect.

Jerry: That everyone has a seat at the table.

Rabbi Linda: What was it like for each of you coming out?  What difficulties did/do you face and where do you find support?

Sariel:  For me coming out was hard and difficult.  Fear set in. Fear of losing love. In the process I got married to a woman , went through 18 months of conversion therapy with the hope that I will be straight.  Eventually at age 37 I came out to my family and friends. My family took the news better than I imagined, it was not easy for them especially for my father but I never lost their support and love.

Jerry:  Difficult and a long road, including coming out during the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

Rabbi Linda: I believe you have gotten married more than once in various places – which ceremony stands out (or do you have a story you would be willing to share)

Sariel & Jerry:  Our first wedding was at CBST the LGBTQ soul in NYC. That ceremony was with our family and friends under a Huppah and was most meaningful to us and was a milestone for us and for the larger LGBTQ community.

Sariel:  On our 11th anniversary Jerry surprised me, Sariel, by then CT had legalized gay marriage.  So on a Friday morning in 2009,we drove to CT and were married legally in front of a judge.

Rabbi Linda: Who inspires you?

Sariel:  My grandfather, Percy Manham and my grandmother Anne Manham; Gary Craig (creator of EFT-emotional freedom technique), Margaret Pazant (led 1st personal transformation work in 1999).

Jerry: My father, Harold Fishman , Brian Regnier (Designer of the graduate curriculum at Landmark Worldwide).

Rabbi Linda: What advice would you give to the young creatives at Tehillah?

Jerry: Follow your dreams.

Sariel:  Do not stop dreaming even if someone tells you that you cannot have it.

Rabbi Linda: Where do you find or notice hope?

Jerry: Conference for Global Transformation (1000+ people committed to leaving this world better than we found it-Tikkun Olam).

Sariel:  My grandfather, Percy Manham and my grandmother Anne Manham; Gary Craig (creator of EFT-emotional freedom technique), Margaret Pazant (led 1st personal transformation work in 1999).

Rabbi Linda:  And one final question for Sariel, how does it feel to be in an Israeli film that highlights your own experiences? 

Sariel: I have just come back from Israel having my movie screened in two different film festivals.The story is the history of the underground homosexual society in Israel prior to 1979 , the first gay pride parade.  When I was filmed I thought I was telling a historical story.  After It was screened and after I received feedback from people I realized that the movie has a message for the future generations. This gives me pride and joy to be part of this project.

Rabbi Linda: Thank you both so very much.

Note:  The film, HaDavkaim, that Sariel is in, has only been released in Israel to date. 
We were privileged to able to share it with the Tehillah community.


Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784