Shabbat Shira Faculty bios
Merri Lovinger Arian serves on the faculty of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. She teaches both cantorial and rabbinic students, offering courses in Music Education, Conducting, Congregational Singing, Worship, and Contemporary Congregational Repertoire. Merri previously served as Director of Music for Synagogue 2000 (S2K), a leading trans-denominational institute developing models for revitalizing synagogue life, and has more recently served as Synagogue 3000's consultant on liturgical arts at HUC-JIR in New York. In that role, Merri supervises rabbinic and cantorial students in creating worship collaboratively at the College-Institute. She holds an MA in Teaching, a BFA in Music Education, and a Certificate in Music Therapy. Merri edited R'fuah Sh'leimah : Songs of Healing. Her recordings include Nefesh : Songs for the Soul, a CD for S2K, and NFTY in Harmony, an album with an accompanying songbook of original choral arrangements. She has written on "Music, Prayer and Sacred Community," and on the educational value of youth choirs.
Michelle Citrin is a Brooklyn based singer/songwriter and producer. Whether playing in front of a sold-out crowd of thousands on the beach of Tel Aviv, or an intimate set at a coffeehouse in Melbourne, Australia, Michelle Citrin's soulful voice, skillful guitar playing, humorous in-between-song banter and unpretentious demeanor has captured the eyes and ears of her audience all over the world.
In 2008, Michelle co-created and starred in the hit YouTube sensations, "20 Things to do with Matzah” and “Rosh Hashanah Girl,” which to date, have received millions of hits, ranking in the top 20 most viewed music videos of the year. Michelle’s versatility and talent for writing catchy and meaningful songs has led to rave reviews and accolades including being named as one of Billboard Music's "Top Songwriters" as well as VH-1’s Song of the Year finalist.
In addition to performing regularly, Michelle leads workshops on developing self-expression and tapping into inner creative spirit. She sits on the Artist Board for Jewishrockradio.com and serves on Synagogue 3000’s Next Dor Committee. In January 2011, she released her first full length album, “Left Brained, Right Hearted."
Vocalist and scholar, Galeet Dardashti, is the first woman to continue her family’s tradition of distinguished Persian and Jewish musicianship, and she has earned a reputation as one of the most innovative performers of Middle Eastern and Jewish music today. She received a Six Points Fellowship to pursue her multi-disciplinary project and 2010 nationally acclaimed release, The Naming, which interprets some of the compelling women of the Bible. Time Out New York called The Naming “urgent, heartfelt and hypnotic,” and The Huffington Post described it as “heart-stopping.” In her most recent commissioned multi-sensory piece, Monajat, Dardashti—accompanied by an acclaimed ensemble of Middle Eastern and jazz musicians—reinvents the reflective musical ritual of Selihot using digital technology to sing with recordings of her famed Iranian grandfather chanting piyutim. She is also the leader of the renowned all-female power-house Mizrahi ensemble, Divahn. As a scholar, she holds a Ph.D. in anthropology, specializing in cultural politics and contemporary Middle Eastern/Arab music in Israel and offers residencies, lectures, courses, and interactive workshops on her artistic and academic work throughout the US and abroad. She is currently the Reitman Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University's Jewish Studies Department.
Rabbi Noam Katz is one of the most exciting voices in contemporary Jewish music. He has shared his high-flying energy and soulful melodies with Jewish and interfaith audiences throughout North America, Africa and Israel. A longtime songleader at URJ Eisner and Kutz Camps, Noam has performed at the URJ Biennial, CAJE, BBYO International, Limmud - England, NFTY Convention, and countless summer camps and congregations.
In 2003, Noam embarked on the most exciting journey of his life, spending three months with the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. He has since shared their powerful story and music with audiences young and old, incorporating the message of Jewish unity and tikkun olam wherever he goes. In any setting, Noam is committed to creating strong Jewish and interfaith community through the power of music.
Shira Kline, “ShirLaLa” is an internationally recognized, award-winning performer, educator and artist. Named as one of the “New re-engineers of Jewish Life,” she works in communities worldwide to enliven rituals, holiday celebration and love for Jewish life and prayer with children and adults alike. Shira has toured extensively throughout the United States as well as stages in Canada, England, Italy, Australia and New Zealand to bring programs that blend teaching, story and song. She also publishes “Blog Sameach,” a teacher and parent resource center and her popular ShirLaLa Jewish Kiddie Rock CDs are played in over 25,000 homes, classrooms and communities. She is on the faculty of the HUC-JIR Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music and the URJ’s Hava Nashira Music Institute. Shira is a founding creator of Lab/Shul and Storahtelling: An everybody-friendly, artist-driven experimental community for sacred Jewish gatherings. www.ShirLaLa.com
One of the most popular performers and composers in modern Jewish music, Josh Nelson is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and songwriter whose work is celebrated and integrated into the repertoire of congregations, camps and communities around the world.
A classically trained musician who is equally versed in rock, jazz and world music, Josh combines his broad range of influences into a breathtaking musical style that is accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. While he performs professionally on as many as thirteen different instruments (though not at the same time), he is most widely considered an extraordinary guitarist, pianist, and vocalist.
Recently hailed by Time Magazine as a “star of the New Jewish Music,” Josh is the music director for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial Convention, faculty for Hava Nashira, and a musical artist in residence for the JCC Maccabi Artsfest. He also serves as a member of the URJ Faculty of Expert Practitioners, is the recipient of a PresentenseNYC Fellowship, and is an active member of the Schusterman ROI Community. Josh leads high holiday services at New York’s historic 92nd St. Y, and is the founder and creative director of THEWAREHOUSE, an alternative Shabbat experience for unaffiliated young Jews in major metropolitan areas. www.joshnelsonproject.com
This program is underwritten in part through
a generous grant from the Daniel M. Soref Charitable Trust.