Leading us to that door
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Leading us to that door

Emerson’s B’nai Israel offers another Beatles Shabbat

Ken Dashow
Ken Dashow

Singing the Chatzi Kaddish to the Beatles’ “In My Life”? (That’s the one that goes, “There are places I’ll remember/All my life, though some have changed…Some are dead and some are living/In my life, I’ve loved them all.”)

It could have gone one of two ways, Ken Dashow said.

Mr. Dashow is a longtime radio DJ who hosts (among many other things, Breakfast With The Beatles, every Sunday morning). He’s also a longtime friend of Cantor Lenny Mandel of Congregation B’nai Israel in Emerson — the two met when Cantor Mandel starred in an off-Broadway show that Mr. Dashow wrote. “It was about a fraternity prank,” Mr. Dashow said. “New members have to spend a night in a haunted house, and the house is haunted by two old Jewish ghosts. Lenny was one of them. He was perfect.”

So when Cantor Mandel asked Mr. Dashow to join him in a Beatles Shabbat a few years ago, Mr. Dashow trustingly said yes.

“I said to Lenny that I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “They either will boo and walk out or they’ll love it. Either it will be wonderful or there will be the first stoning in the tristate area.” As it turned out, the congregation that first Friday night swelled to the point that they had to open the doors to the social hall, as if it were Rosh Hashanah. “Fortunately, it was spectacular,” Mr. Dashow said.

The kaddish “basically was John Lennon’s kaddish,” Mr. Dashow said. “It was his message that he left the world — ‘in my life, I love you more.’ It and other Beatles songs have messages that still resonate today.”

He also vividly remembers how well Adon Olam goes to the melody of “Penny Lane.” (Of course, that is a low bar. There is no music that you cannot sing Adon Olam to. It almost miraculously scans with everything.)

The most surprising part of the service, he added, is that he showed up as he usually does for shul, in a “beautiful suit and an elegant tie. And Lenny was wearing a tie-dyed shirt and jeans and a headband, and the rabbi” — that’s Debra Orenstein — “is wearing a hippie blouse and a flower-power skirt. And I said to her, ‘Rabbi, one of us is dressed wrong for the service.’” It wasn’t Rabbi Orenstein, Mr. Dashow added.

There have been two other Beatles Shabbatot since then; this Friday night will be the fourth.

This time, Mr. Dashow will come properly dressed. “I will wear love beads and a psychedelic shirt and bell bottoms,” he said. “That is not what I would normally wear to Friday night services at shul. Or to any services at any shul.”

Cantor Lenny Mandel, dressed for a wedding. (The groom’s family was from Scotland.)

He loves the Beatles, Shabbat, and Beatles Shabbat. “Beatles music to me is about all of us coming together, and about peace and love. And if that is not what a Sabbath service should be in any religion, then what else should it be?”

This time, the music will focus on songs that the members of the Beatles wrote outside the group; that’s because he sets the familiar liturgy to different music every time, Cantor Mandel said.

He began thinking about Beatles Shabbat, he continued, during the time he was alone on B’nai Israel’s bimah, before Rabbi Orenstein got there. He did it to attract people to the shul, but he learned that it did more. It created community. “It was just incredible to see 200 people out there, in t-shirts and jeans, just singing along,” he said.

He remembers singing L’cha Dodi, the song that ushers in the Shabbat Queen, to the melody of “Something in the Way She Moves.” The woman in the song “attracts me like no other lover.” It was beautiful, he said. And maybe the most striking was the Sh’ma, sung to “Long and Winding Road.” 

As it tell us:
“The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door.”


Who: Cantor Lenny Mandel, Rabbi Debra Orenstein, and DJ Ken Dashow

What: Present Beatles Shabbat

When: On Friday, November 16, at 7:30 p.m.

Where: At Congregation B’nai Israel, 53 Palisade Ave., Emerson

For more information: (201) 265-2272 or go to www.bisrael.com.

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