The Originals: BEHIND THE MUSIC

The stories behind each original song written by the songwriters

plus the lyrics and translations

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Track 1: El Melech Yoshev

El Melech Yoshev: music by Mitch Cohen - High Holy Day Liturgy  © 2004
written in memory of Michelle Samet

Mitch Cohen writes...

Pictured above in the first row all the way on the left is Michelle Samet. This photo of our High Holy Day choir was taken in 2003 about a year before Michelle suddenly passed away. I had written a different version of El Melech Yoshev back in the 90's.  After Michelle's passing, I was inspired to write something new. We lost Michelle at a very early age of 43. Michelle was known for her very strong and powerful voice. I remember I was practicing a song with Michelle when we were teenagers back at the old JCC on Summit Road in Roselawn. I wrote a song about Israel that we were preparing to sing for a show. I remember vividly playing an upright piano in a room on the first floor of the old JCC. I looked up at Michelle who stood at the piano as she sang out confidently with her signature power and ruach (spirit).  My hope is that I caught some of Michelle's power and energy in this rendition of El Melech Yoshev. Some of the melodies in this arrangement remind me of that song we sang together back at the old JCC. Michelle's parents are Toby and Sam Samet. Toby has a long history teaching at our religious school, where she continues to teach Hebrew. Sam Samet was very involved in our morning minyan at Adath Israel for many many years.

 El Melech Yoshev Hebrew

(Note that "ch" is pronounced like Challah bread or Chanukkah)

El melech yoshev, al kiseh rachamim, el melech yoshev al kiseh rachamim (repeat)
mitnaheg bachasidut, mocheil avonot amo (repeat)
Maavir rishon rishon, maavir rishon rishon
Marbeh m'chilah l'chataim, uslichah l'foshim
Oseh tstdakot im kol-basar varuach (repeat)
Lo ch'raatam tigmol (repeat)
El horeitah lanu lomar shlosh esrei z'char-lanu hayom b'rit shlosh esrei (repeat)
K'mo shehodatah leahnav mikedem (repeat)
Kimo shekatuv (repeat)
Vayeired Adonai beahnan vayityatseiv imo sham. Vayikrah, vayikrah v'sheim Adonai (repeat)

TRANSLATION:

G-d, Sovereign who sits on a throne of mercy,
acting with unbounded grace,
forgiving the sins of Your people, one by one,
as each comes before You,
generously forgiving sinners and pardoning transgressors,
acting charitably with every living thing:
do not repay them for their misdeeds

G-d, You taught us how to recite
the thirteen attributes of your name;
remember the promise implied in these thirteen attributes,
which You first revealed to Moses, the humble one,
so it is written: G-d descended in a cloud
and stood beside him,
and he called the name Adonai

Track 2: Hodieni

Stephanie Sargent

Hodieni: music by Mitch Cohen - psalm 39 -  © 2011
written in memory of Stephanie Sargent

Mitch Cohen writes...

Pictured above is a photo of Stephanie Sargent from my Walnut Hills High School yearbook in 1979. She is wearing her favorite bunny hand puppet that she used as a prop in our senior musical "Godspell". Stephanie was a good high school friend of mine. We reconnected via Facebook in 2009. I found out we followed similar paths getting involved at our synagogues. She taught at the Gan Shelanu preschool at Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka,
Minnesota. Looking back on Facebook, I was telling her about a new kids song I just finished called "V'techezenna" (which is also on this CD). I was excited to share it with her thinking she could possibly use it at her religious school. In 2011, I heard that Stephanie had a stroke at the age of 50. Her husband posted her progress reports online for Stephanie's friends to follow. I was feeling hopeful that she was on the road to recovery, but then I heard she had additional strokes and nothing could be done. Around the same time or soon after, we began using our new High Holy Day mahzor, Lev Shalem. There was a page I discovered that wasn't in our old mahzor. It was based on psalm 39. It starts "Tell me. G-d, my end - the measure of my days - that I would know how fleeting my life is..." The reality that change can happen at any moment resonated with me. I had experienced sudden loss in the past. Now with Stephanie, these words rang very true again. The psalm makes me want to strive to appreciate every moment, since the future is unknown and can change in an instant. Some of the harmonies I am told remind people of the TV show "Glee". This was somewhat intentional. I was a fan of the show "Glee" that takes place at a high school. The show follows the stories of a close group of singing friends. Listening to Hodieni reminds me of being back in high school with Stephanie again. We will all continue to miss her. Below is a wonderful picture posted on her Facebook page of Stephanie with members of her preschool class.

 

Hodieni Hebrew

Hodieni Adonai kitzi, umidat yamai mah-hi
Eid'ah me-chadeil ani (repeat)
Ach-b'tselem yithalech-ish ach-hevel yehehmahyun
Yitzsbor v'lo-yeidah mi-osfam
v'atah mah-kiviti Adonai, tochalti l'cha hi Adonai (repeat)

TRANSLATION:
from psalm 39
Hodieni means "Tell me"
Tell me, G-d, my end - the measure of my days -
that I would know how fleeting my life is.
We walk about like empty shells,
all our efforts add up to little,
we pile up possessions,
but don't know how to account for our lives.
What then should I hope for, G-d?
My hope is in you G-d.



 

Track 3: I am Jewish

(Debbie Lempert along with one of her Consecration classes singing "I am Jewish")

I am Jewish: words and music by Debbie Lempert & Rabbi Mitch Delcau  © 2009

Debbie Lempert writes...

The "I Am Jewish" song was born out of the desire to make the Kindergarten Consecration more meaningful for students.  While the students had previously sung songs during Consecration, I wanted to help them connect what they were learning with this special ceremony.  I decided to base the consecration program on the G-d concepts we were going to be learning.  In my years working with students in the classroom as well as my own children, I have learned that they remember and connect better with information in a song format.  I decided to create a song based upon what we were learning about G-d in the classroom.  I consulted with then Rabbinic "Intern" Mitch Delcau to help me write the lyrics and music.  I was just learning to play guitar and didn't have the ability on my own, while Mitch was a terrific singer, song leader and guitar player.  Together we developed the lyrics and melody.  I sang into a microphone on his computer as he accompanied me with his guitar.  We never imagined it would become a future "ear worm" that almost every student and parent would come to know! 

Lyrics:

CHORUS:
I am Jewish and I believe in one G-d
Believe in one G-d, believe in one G-d.
I am Jewish and I believe in one G-d
Ani Yehudi

I believe G-d made the whole world and me,
I believe G-d made the whole world and me,
I believe that G-d made the world,
The fish, the trees, the birds,
I believe G-d made the whole world and me.

CHORUS

I believe G-d wants me to do miztvot.   
I believe G-d wants me to do miztvot.
With Tzedakah and Tikun Olam,
I can help everyone,
I believe G-d wants me to do mitzvot.

CHORUS


I believe I can talk and pray to G-d.
I believe I can talk and pray to G-d.
At shul, at home, anywhere,
Cause G-d is everywhere,
I believe I can talk and pray to G-d.

CHORUS

I believe when I pray I say “Thank you G-d.”
I believe when I pray I say “Thank you G-d.”
With each bracha I say,
I give thanks to G-d each day,
I believe when I pray I say “Thank you G-d.”

KEY CHANGE 
I am Jewish, and I believe in one G-d,
Believe in one G-d, believe in one G-d.

Shema Yisrael Ad-nai El-heinu,
Ad-nai echad.

CHORUS


Track 4: Romimu

Romimu: music by Mitch Cohen - Kabbalat Shabbat liturgy  © 2012

Mitch Cohen writes...

Many of my songs I have written over the years have come from emotions of sadness and difficult times.  But I am happy to say that Romimu came from joy. I grew up as a keyboard/piano player. After becoming the music teacher at our religious school, I found it difficult to carry my piano from classroom to classroom. I decided to teach myself guitar. Luckily for me, I could get started by just learning a few chords, since many traditional Jewish songs seemed to use the same chord progressions. Romimu was the very first song I wrote just using my guitar. My original arrangement was much simpler than what you hear on this recording. The song has developed over the years and is one of my favorites to sing with Shir Ami. Thank you to Alan Sholiton for playing some very cool guitar licks and blues harmonica that you will hear on this recording. 

To be honest, I was a little scared singing this song with the band during services for the first time. I thought it may not seem appropriate and even a little risqué with the heavy bluesy beat. I am happy to say the congregation was very receptive. Also to be honest, I struggled with feeling a disconnect between my music and the words of the prayer. The translation didn't always seem to fit my arrangement: "Exalt Adonai our G-d and worship at G-d's holy mountain; For Adonai our G-d is holy."  I thought, why would exalting G-d be a blues song? And does this arrangement really sound holy? Then I thought more about "Kabbalat Shabbat" and how the service was supposed to help us build a more personal and intimate relationship with G-d. The Kabbalists gave us beautiful imagery of welcoming the "Shabbos Bride" to help us feel a closeness to G-d. What I realized is that when I sing Romimu, this style of song really helps me feel a personal connection. When the band joins in, I feel like we are all coming together praising G-d.

I also wrote an arrangement of this song using flute recorders for my 3rd, 4th and 5th grade music class. One day, I hope to record this version. It's pretty cool to hear 30 kids playing their recorders. The kids do an awesome job.

Romimu Hebrew
Romimu Adonai Eloheinu,  V'hishtachavu l'har kadsho,  ki-kadosh Adonai,
ki-kadosh Adoani Eloheinu
Romimu Adonai, Eloheinu
Ya, dai, dai

Extol Adonai our G-d,
and bow toward G-d's holy mountain
Adonai our G-d is holy

 


 

Track 5: Trust in the Lord

Trust in the Lord: music by Mitch Cohen - psalm 27  © 1998

Mitch Cohen writes...

Trust in the Lord is the only piece that our Adath Israel High Holy Day Choir sings in English. When I was looking through the mahzor, I was drawn to the English reading of psalm 27. We recite this prayer each day during the High Holy Day season. Since the congregation normally reads the prayer in English out loud, I was hoping our Rabbi would allow the choir to sing this song in English. I am happy that Rabbi Wise said OK! I decided to have the Cantor sing in Hebrew to keep with our traditions of the Cantor davening in Hebrew. I like hearing both Hebrew and English at the same time in the piece.

I will say that this piece was alot easier for the computer to sing than it was for live people. I write most of my compositions with my piano keyboard attached to my computer. The computer had no trouble playing back what I wrote, but this was a challenging piece for the choir to master. I am happy to say that our choir does an amazing job, but it still takes discipline even after singing it for many years. I am very proud of the recording on this CD. The parts are very independent, yet they are together.  For most of the piece, the parts are meant to fight with each other representing life's struggles. The piece ends with everyone coming together in harmony, which is how I felt the psalm ends with a feeling of hope that we can find courage and strength in G-d. 

Our Cantor Dani Birnbaum has a very special high tenor voice, and I definitely had him in mind when writing this piece. You will hear Cantor Birnbaum on a number of tracks on this CD.

based on psalm 27
Lyrics:
The Lord is my light and my help whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life, whom shall I dread?
Should an army be arrayed against me, I would not fear
Should war best me, still would I be confident.
On thing I ask of the Lord, for this do I year:
That I may dwell in the house of the lord all my life,
To feel the goodness of the Lord in his sanctuary..
With chanting and joyous singing
Oh Lord hear my voice when I call, be gracious to me
O Lord, I truly seek you, do not hide yourself from me
You have always been my help; do not forsake me
Teach me Your way O Lord, lead me on a straight path
Trust in the Lord and be strong; (Kavei el Adonai, Chazak v'yameitz)
Take courage and hope in the Lord (Libehcha, v'kavei, el Adonai)

 


Track 6: Shuva

Fred Diamond

 

Shuva: music by Mitch Cohen - Tahanun © 2003
written in memory of Fred Diamond

Mitch Cohen writes...

I will never forget Fred Diamond (pictured above). Thinking back, I actually didn't know Fred very well. I knew him as a congregant at Adath Israel who along with his wife Amy were very involved with our social action programs. During the last year of his life, I got to know him better. To this day, I admire his courage. Fred passed away from a brain tumor in January of 2003 at the age of 45. Fred was known for giving back to the community. He founded the Fund Evaluation Group, which helped many non profit organizations. He was very involved with the Freestore and Food Pantry here in Cincinnati. He was a board member at the JCC and at Adath Israel Congregation. Fred and Amy were instrumental in founding our Social Action Committee at Adath Israel. The Social Action Committee's programs include hosting homeless families through the Interfaith Hospitality Network, supporting the kosher food pantry, supporting the Center for Respite Care, and so much more.

There are two events that I will never forget. The first is Fred's funeral. I have never seen so many people attend a funeral. We had to open the back doors in our sanctuary like we do for the High Holy Days to put in more chairs. With no exaggeration, there were over 700 people in attendance, and perhaps closer to 1000. There was an unbelievable outpouring of love from the community for Fred and his family.

The other event I will never forget happened at morning minyan services a few months prior to Fred's passing. During the last year of his life, Fred came to services with his dad Harvey each morning. I was a regular at morning minyan, so I had a chance to see Fred each day. I had recently finished a year of mourning for my mom, and I kept coming because the people at minyan became like a second family. Fred's brain tumor eventually began to affect his motor skills, and he needed to start using a wheelchair.  During services, we recite the names of the sick (the Mishaberach list), and we also recite the names of those who have passed away during the last year (the El Maleh list). There was a moment when Fred heard his name on the sick list. He realized that soon his name would be moved to the "El Maleh" list of those who have passed away, and he broke down. We all understood what had just happened.  Fred continued to come each morning without fail up to when he passed. He faced his situation with courage and never seemed to lose his faith.

What do you do with the emotions when something like this happens? For me, I'm lucky enough to have the outlet of music.  The words for the Tahanun prayer really caught what I was feeling. It's a prayer we recite each day at morning minyan.  "Shuva" means "Return"  Here is the translation: "...I am faint, heal me, my limbs tremble; How long must my soul remain in such agony.  Return to me, O G-d, and rescue me; save me, for the sake of your kindness.. In death there is no remembering you. In the grave who can praise you."

 

Shuva hebrew

Chaneini Adonai, Ki umilal ani
Rifaeini Adonai ki nivhalu atzami

(chorus)
V'nafshi nivhalah m'od
V'atah Adonai ad-matai
Shuva, Adonai, chaltza nafshi
Hosheini,

l'maan, l'maan chasdecha

Ki ein bamavet zichrecha
bishol mi yodeh-lach, mi yodeh-lach, mi yodeh lach

TRANSLATION:
from the prayer Tahanun
Be merciful to me, I am faint; heal me, my limbs tremble;
How long must my soul remain in agony?
Return to me, O Lord, and rescue me;
Save me, for the sake of Your kindness
In death there is no remembering You.
In the grave who can praise You?

 


Track 7: Unetaneh Tokev and Uva Shofar Gadol

Unataneh Tokev - Uva Shofar Gadol: music by Mitch Cohen -
High Holy Day liturgy  © 1992, 1993

Mitch Cohen writes...

The Unetaneh Tokev is a central prayer of the High Holy Days on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Looking back now, I am surprised I wasn't more intimidated to tackle this prayer, but I was much younger back then and didn't think about what I was undertaking. I wrote this over a two year period. Back in 1992, I completed the first half (the Unetaneh Tokev), and the following year in 1993, I added the second half (Uva Shofar Gadol). The two pieces are meant to connect together, which you will hear on the recording.  I remember after the High Holy Days one year, a congregant told me he really liked the one that sounded like a "Broadway" song. I realized the congregant was talking about this piece. I think he must have heard my Broadway influences in the second half of this piece, when the altos and basses become the rhythm section singing "bop bop bop bop bop".. as the tenors and sopranos sing "Uva Shofar Gadol Yitakah".  My voice training was in musical theater growing up, and many evenings during my childhood, I would sing and play Broadway tunes at the piano with my brothers. It's very possible people will hear my Broadway influences. I remember as a teenager pretending to conduct the orchestra that played "The Music and Mirror" from "A Chorus Line". I would play that record over and over again in our living room while conducting every beat. Now, that was a great song! Hopefully no one was watching me.

TRANSLATION:

Let us speak of the sacred power of this day - profound and awe-inspiring. On it, Your sovereignty is celebrated, and your throne, from which You rule in truth, is established with love.
Truly, You are the Judge and Prosecutor, Expert and Witness,
completing the indictment, bringing the case, and enumerating the counts. You recall all that is forgotten and will open the book of remembrance, which speaks for itself, for our own hands have signed the page.
The great shofar is sounded and the still small voice will be heard.
Angels will be alarmed, seized with fear and trembling, declaring, "This very day is the Day of Judgment" - for even the hosts of heaven are judged; no one is innocent in Your sight,
All that lives on earth will pass before You like a flock of sheep.
As a shepherd examines the flock, making each sheep pass
under the staff, so You will review and number and count,
judging each living being, determining the fate of everything in creation, inscribing their destiny.

check back for Hebrew and transliterations coming soon.

 


Track 8: V'ahavta

V'ahavta: music by Mitch Cohen - Vayikra 18:19  © 2004

Mitch Cohen writes...

The V'ahavta is also known to us at Adath Israel as "The Door Song". Pictured above, you will see the words of the V'ahavta inscribed on our chapel ark doors. V'ahavta translates to "You shall love your neighbor as yourself". The song was performed for the first time during a dedication in the Marcus Chapel where the above ark doors are located. The Torah covers were dedicated in memory of my mom. Dolly and Sheldon Kopin and their family dedicated the ark curtain in memory of their parents and grandparents Anna and Max Kopin and Regina and Benjamin Krause.   Mom was a very giving person. I remember that she enjoyed volunteering as a candy striper. She also helped deliver Meals on Wheels for many years. She was always more concerned about others than she was of herself.

Thinking back now, I just had a memory of someone who spoke at the dedication who knew my mom. She said the colors used on the Torah covers reminded her of my mom's sweater vests she was famous for wearing. You may hear a bit of a throwback to the 60's in this song.  I was hoping that people would sing this song and come together with the hope of bringing peace and kindness to each other. 

mom and me
(my mom and me when I was 11. Not sure why I was so serious)

Translation:
Rabbi Akiva said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself is a major principle of the Torah"

Check back for Hebrew soon...

 


Track 9: Yaaleh

Yaaleh: music by Mitch Cohen - Kol Nidre liturgy  © 1990

Mitch Cohen writes...

Yaaleh wins the award for being the longest song on this CD! Yaaleh was the first choral piece I ever wrote. It's hard for me to believe it was back in 1990.  Back in 1990, our choir was all men. A few years later after Rabbi Wise became our rabbi, the congregation moved to being egalitarian where women could equally participate in services (and the choir). My original arrangement was written for male voices. We now sing this with sopranos taking the tenor 1 part and altos taking the baritone part.

Some in the choir have told me lovingly that Yaaleh reminds them of a Christmas holiday tune. I was very involved with our choir and ensemble groups at my high school back in the late 70's. Back then, we sang many Christmas tunes in high school. I remember when we started learning the Hallelujah Chorus, I noticed that the majority of the class already knew these melodies from church. It was all new to me. I remember even singing the main solo for "The Jesus Gift" one year. We all search for our own Jewish identities and ways to find a balance living in American culture while keeping our Jewish values and traditions. I think people may hear some of my own journey and musical influences in Yaaleh. I believe I can appreciate the music of other religions and cultures, while still finding ways to keep my Jewishness.

Note that my original composition did not include the "Yai Dai Dai" section at the end. I was flattered when Rabbi Wise asked me if I could add the Yai Dai Dai's, because the congregation gets into singing along with the choir. I decided to include the Yai Dai Dai's on this recording, since this is the way we sing it on Kol Nidre.

TRANSLATION:

May our supplications rise up at evening,
our pleas arrive with the dawn,
our songs transform the dusk.
may our voices rise up at evening,
our righteous acts arrive with the dawn,
our redemption transform the dusk.
May our suffering rise up at evening,
our forgiveness arrive with the dawn
our purity transform the dusk.
May our prayers rise up at evening,
coming to You with the dawn
transforming us at dusk.

Check back for Hebrew and transliterations soon...

Track 10: V'techezenna

V'techezenna: music by Mitch Cohen - the Amidah  © 2009

Mitch Cohen writes...

I hope you will agree that the kids singing on our CD are awesome! Shown above is a photo from one of our sessions when we recorded V'techezenna at the Jarson Education Center at Adath Israel Congregation.   The prayer "Vtechezenna" comes from the amidah. Here is the translation, "May our eyes behold Your merciful return to Zion. Praise to You, O G-d, Who restores the Divine Presence to Zion."  The reason I picked this prayer had alot to do with my own curiosity. I had become very interested in looking into what was meant by "the divine presence returning to Zion".  I had been attending morning minyan services daily, and I noticed that there were four times during the weekday amidah when we prayed for G-d's presence to return to Jerusalem in one way or another. I became so interested, I created curriculum and taught a class for the Jewish High School Mercaz called "Indiana Jones and the Third Temple".  I researched the topic of the ark of the covenant and the idea of rebuilding a third temple in Jerusalem.  You will hear the kids sing "David Melech Yisrael" during the song.  "David Melech Yisrael" isn't in the V'techezenna prayer, but it's a Jewish secret code word. The mashiach (messiah) who will bring us a time of peace when G-d's presence returns to Jerusalem is prophesized to be a descendent of King David. You will find the King David code word mentioned in many prayers and blessings in our liturgy.

On a lighter note, I thought the word "V'techezenna" was really fun to say! That's kind of how the song got started in my head. The kids have alot of fun with this song and they really enjoy singing out "David Melech Yisrael".

TRANSLATION:

May we witness Your merciful return to Zion. Praised are you Adonai,
who restores the Divine Presence to Zion.

check back for hebrew and transliteration coming soon...


Track 11: You Care for Us

You Care for Us: words and music by Dara Wood and Mitch Cohen -   © 2012

Rabbi and Kathy

Dara Wood writes...

Mitch was asked to write a song for Rabbi and Kathy’s 20th Anniversary at Adath Israel to surprise them. I said– how fun is that, to write a song, I want to write a song! Totally joking of course. but Mitch took me up on it! I have felt close to Rabbi and Kathy, and thought I can come up with some lyrics to say how much we all care about them – and the chorus came rather easily. You care for us, you are there for us, each and every day – this perfectly describes Rabbi and Kathy. There when we need them, in the good times and the hard ones, there they are, right next to us. Mitch wrote some beautiful music and the rest of the lyrics just came. When you become part of a congregation you hope to have a have a Rabbi and Rebbetzin that support you and takes the time to get to know you, even when the congregation is large and in turn you grow to truly care about them as well. That is what this song speaks to.

Lyrics: 

There are times in our lives, we’re unable to see
That someone that we are meant to be
You know what to do, you know what to say
To help us all find, to find our way 

CHORUS
And you are there for us, and you care for us throughout our lives
And you are there for us, stand right next to us, through all those times
When we celebrate you make it feel brand new
And when our hearts must break, you will walk us through
Time and time again, we’re there with you…

 
There are those times when life gets rough
When what we give just isn’t enough
That’s when you come in, when life gets too real
And you begin to help us heal
 
Repeat Chorus.
 
BRIDGE:
You always support us, you are always there
You are and we know it, just how much you really care
You always support us, you are always there
We want you to know it
Just how much we really care
We really care, We really care!

Last CHORUS:
And we care for you, we are there for you, that’s what we want to say
That we are there for you, and we care for you, through all our days
When we look back on all that we’ve been through
We know the bond we’ve built and our friendship’s true
Time and time again, we’re there with you
 
We care for you, we are there for you, we care for you

 

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