Long-time readers of this blog willl know that I have frequently complained about what I saw as a declining interest in fine arts within the Jewish community, at least those parts of it I interacted with. Well, Rabbi Yonah and the crew at Jewlicious decided to do something about it. I was blown away by the whole shabbaton, but most of all by the incredible collection of talent, Jewish and non-Jewish, that was put together for us. Not only did they perform, but they led jam sessions and workshops with the students. The spoken-word poetry workshop run by Besskepp and a friend of his (I forget the name) was especially noteworthy, as students writing on short notice produced some incredibly powerful poetry.
Almost around the clock, students were playing music and singing with Rabbi Yonah, Rabbi Leibish, and many other fantastic artists. The best thing was that none of the music was of that excrable "Jewpop" variety (which is all that I heard at YU); while most of the music had Jewish content, the musical styles were either authentic (and good), or heavily influenced by other musical styles such as jazz, acoustic rock, or funk (and good). The incredible concert was opened by the Makkabees, who played death-metal covers of standard Jewish songs like "Shabbat Shalom." Words simply cannot describe.
I really think that the Shabbaton may end up being the catalyst for a new revival of Jewish creativity. Hundreds of students were exposed to truly innovative and electrifying musicians and writers, and many of us went away inspired to do our own work. (I'm not sure if I want to post the poetry I wrote. It was pretty intense. Think Fidelis, but about fifty times creepier.)
For the first time in a long time, I really think that religious Jewish culture is being revitalized. The Jewlicious Shabbaton should stand in our history as a critical event in that process.