A new you, a new year

by Rabbi Jesse Olitzky

We find comfort in the fictional worlds created by Hollywood. Whether we are actors, writers, producers, or simply fans, we escape in these fictionalized worlds, the fantasies we watch in movie theaters, the episodic narratives that we follow week-to-week on television, and the lyrical stories told through song. Escaping in these fictional worlds allows us to bury the challenges of reality, to ignore that which we must face in life.

However, these worlds that we immerse ourselves in, these worlds created by Hollywood, offer us important lessons in life as well. Jewish tradition teaches that during the Hebrew month of Elul, the month we are currently in, leading up to the High Holy Days and the Jewish New Year, we dedicate ourselves to reflection, repentance, and renewal through acts of justice and wrestling with the divine. We look for the good inside ourselves and accept those things we’ve done wrong, in hopes that we will change in the year ahead.

Film, television, and music are more than simply entertainment. Such pop culture offers insight into our lives and lessons to help us mold into a better version of ourselves. The Pop Elul Project uses themes found in movies, music, and television to reflect on who we are and who we want to be, and regardless of our faiths, find the good in ourselves and the good in the world.

To read week one, “A new year, a new you”, please click here.

Remembering why “We Are Here”
True Blood’ is a fight for true justice
Give a little bit… And let go of a lot
A clean slate means a Transparent self
Guard Yourself and Guard the Galaxy
‘All About That Bass’ reminds us we are all made in God’s image
The YOU Project
Words Hurt. Don’t Be So Rude.

Alicia KeyesImage via Wikipedia

Remembering why “We Are Here”

It is incredible how in the world we live in, a tweet, video, or posting becomes viral so quickly, with the help of a hashtag and social media shares. Artists have begun to embrace this phenomenon as well, using social media to promote their work, inside of waiting for marketing executives to do it for them.

That is exactly what happened when musician Alicia Keys decided to share the new music video for her song “We Are Here” on her Facebook page on September 8th. Through the power of social media, her song, and the power of its lyrics, quickly spread. The song attempts to answer the existential question of why we are here and quickly went viral as Keys’ fans and fellow artists begin answering the questioning, explaining why #WeAreHere.

For example, actor Jesse Ferguson tweeted “I am here to be the best version of myself for you #WeAreHere” while musician and actress Queen Latifah tweeted “I am here for love, courage, peace, strength. #WeAreHere”. Musician Pharrell shared on Instagram: “I am here to serve humanity with humility #WeAreHere” and even CBS this morning co-anchor and Oprah BFF Gayle King posted on Instagram “I am here to cheer you on #WeAreHere”

Music isn’t just about melodies and lyrics. Music – good music, real music – is meant to inspire. When it does that, then music becomes prayer. That is exactly what Alicia Keys has achieved with her latest single. Her words have become the prayer for all of humanity, reminding us why we are here. Traditional High Holy Day liturgy tells us that we change our ways through Tefillah, Teshuvah, and Tzedakah, through prayer, repentance, and justice. This is our prayer for the year ahead, as she sings in the chorus of her single:

We are here

We are here for all of us

We are here for all of us

It’s why we are here, why we are here

Alicia KeyesAlicia Keys simply and profoundly reminds us that we are here for each other. We are here to look out for one another, to support one another, and to protect one another. She references in her song war in the Middle East, gun violence and crime in inner cities, lack of support for education, and other issues that we too often choose to ignore because they may not affect us directly. She reminds each and every one of us that all issues affect us. As she posted on Facebook when she posted the video to her new song:

“No matter where we come from, when we see the state of the world today, we can all feel the growing frustration and desire to make a difference. And we all have a voice – we just need to know how to make it heard. I have a vision that I believe is more than a dream, that I know can be our reality. I believe in an empowered world community built on the true meaning of equality – where we are all considered one people, regardless of race, religion, gender, zip code, belief system or sexual orientation. Our souls were brought together so that we can love each other sister, brother. We Are Here. We are here for all of us.”

As we re-examine ourselves leading up the High Holy Days, we cannot do that without re-examining the world around us. We cannot only change. The world must change as well. And we are a part of that. We must be a part of that. We must care about each other, we must care about the other, and unite as humanity, as God’s creation to support each other. Keys’ lyrics and her message that was attached to the video mirrors the pray of the Psalmist in Psalm 133:

How beautiful it will be when we come together as brothers (and sisters) in unity.

How beautiful it will be when we look out for each other and not only for ourselves. How beautiful will it be when we realize and truly understand that this is why #WeAreHere. May we all come to such a realization in the year ahead.

Please Note: “We Are Here” by Alicia Keys was originally released via music video on Alicia Keys’ Facebook page on September 8th, 2014.

True Blood

‘True Blood’ is a fight for true justice

Fans sat on the edge of their seat a couple of weeks ago as, after seven seasons, HBO aired the final episode of its hit series True Blood. Like any hit series that has been a part of society and pop culture for so long, the finale is bound to receive mix reviews. Just ask fans of Lost and The Sopranos about their thoughts on their respective series finales. The August 24th finale of True Blood was no different. Some fans loved it. Some fans hated it.

I think all fans were shocked when [SPOILER ALERT] protagonist Bill Compton (played by Stephen Moyer) asked his lover, fairy Sookie Stackhouse (played by Anna Paquin), to use her fairy light ball to kill him. That is the only way that Bill — a vampire — could die, and dying would not only set him free, but would set Sookie free as well, since she couldn’t have the family she so desired as long as she was in love with a vampire. Ultimately, Sookie obliged, and in an uncomfortable scene in which she is kissing Bill in his grave, she pierces his heart with a wooden stake.

We could analyze — and overanalyze — the series finale, but I prefer to focus on the series as a whole. This groundbreaking show about vampires living in the fictional small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, isn’t really about vampires at all. This is not a young adult vampire lovefest (like the CW’s The Vampire Diaries or the hit movies in the Twilight series). The series, based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, uses vampires as an analogy to discuss issues of injustice that so many minorities face. The series began seven seasons ago after a fictional scientific breakthrough. The show takes place two years after a group of Japanese scientists invent a synthetic blood, known as Tru Blood. Such an invention allows vampires, who previously hid their identities unbeknownst to most of society, to no longer depend on human blood for survival. Many of them seek to integrate themselves into society by campaigning for citizenship and equal rights.

David Bianculli of NPR analyzed the vampires struggle to “come out of the coffin” (an expression that the show actually uses) and noted that the “tension about accepting vampires into society is an obvious play on civil right in general, and gay rights in particular.”

Hollywood is about more than entertainment. True art is used as a vehicle to promote social change and while True Blood brings us a fantastical world in which vampires, werewolves, and witches exist among us, it more importantly teaches us that the struggle for equal rights is a struggle that all of us must fight for.

If a single individual’s human rights and civil rights are denied, whether it be because of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or class, then its a problem that we all must deal with. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The liturgy of the High Holy Days reminds us that we change our ways, and we change the world, through Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah. However, we often mistranslate and misunderstand what the liturgy is charging us to do. While Teshuvah refers to repenting for our misdeeds and changing our ways and Tefillah refers to our commitment to prayer and wrestling with God, Tzedakah is regularly mistranslated. The term is often used to mean “charity,” but it literally means “justice.” And that is exactly what it means during the Hebrew month of Elul and the High Holy Days. True justice is about changing our ways and changing the world. True justice is about fighting for equal rights for all, recognizing, appreciating, and celebrating that all are created B’Tzelem Elohim, in God’s Divine Image. Justice doesn’t come easily. It is ideal, but not easy to achieve. In Deuteronomy 16:20, we are commanded:

Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue.

We are commanded to pursue justice because it does not come easily, but it is essential for our survival. It is essential to finish creating the world God set out to create. It is essential if we are to be God’s partners in creation. Chase it. Fight for it. Pursue it. Make it reality. And although we may be entertained by vampires’ love affairs with humans (and even a little annoyed with the final episode), let us not forget that True Blood is reminding us to act just as Deuteronomy instructs us to act, to fight for equal rights and pursue true justice for all.

Please note: The final episode of True Blood starring Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin premiered on HBO on August 24th, 2014. Episodes are available to stream on HBO On Demand and HBO GO as well as on Amazon Prime. Episodes are regularly Rated TV-MA for Sex & Nudity, Violence & Gore, Alcohol & Drug Use, and Profanity. Viewer Discretion Advised.

The GiverImage via Wikipedia

Give a little bit… And let go of a lot

After over twenty years, one of the most popular Young Adult science fiction novels finally made it to the big screen. The Giver was published in 1993 and in the years and decades that followed, it seemed that Lois Lowry’s dystopian novel was required reading for almost every student in the country. It became so popular as a young adult novel that many adults chose to read it as well. With the successful transition of many young adult dystopian futuristic tales to the big screen (like The Hunger Games and Divergent), The Giver seemed like a natural hit. It would have a whole generation of new fans. Those who read it in school twenty years ago would flock to the theaters as adults to see it as well!

The film of the same name, starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Brenton Thwaites, was released on August 15th in theaters. However, it did not catch on with fans of the novel and was a bust. While films like The Hunger Games had huge opening weekends at the box office, The Giver only grossed $12.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing a distant fifth. Through it first month in theaters, the movie has only grossed $33 million domestically and only received a 33% rating on the fan critic website, Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie, which is only loosely based on the original source material of the book, is set in the year 2048. After war, the community got rid of colors, races, ethnicities, and feelings. Memories from before that event was erased from all citizens’ minds. Jonas (played by Thwaites) must receive those memories form the past from The Giver (played by Bridges). The Receiver of Memory is the only individual in the entire community who has these memories and as a result, must advise elders and government leaders on what decisions to make because they are equally unaware of the past.

[SPOILER ALERT] Eventually, Jonas released memories back to the community. The lessons he learned and the community realized, is something we must hold unto as well. Just because the past is painful, that doesn’t mean we erase it. Forgetting is different than erasing. In Deuteronomy 25, a portion of the Hebrew Bible that Jewish communities throughout the world read last week, we are reminded of the terrible attack on the biblical Israelites by the people of Amalek. Scripture commands us to blot out that memory and still, not forget it.

How do we blot out the memory but not forget it? During the Hebrew month of Elul, we are encouraged to admit our mistakes, repent, and start fresh as a changed person and individual. We begin anew. In order to do that, we must let go of the past. We let go of the pain and heartache that the past has caused us and that we have previously caused others. But we do not forget. If we forget it, then we repeat the past. If we forget it, then we never change; we just end up returning back to our previous state. We remember such painful memories because they made us who we are – and who we strive to become. But we also have the courage to let go, and to begin again.

Please note: The Giver starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Brenton Thwaites, was produced by Walden Media and distributed by The Weinstein Company. The movie was released in theaters on August 15, 2014 and is Rated PG-13.

TransparentImage via

A clean slate means a Transparent self

The most talked about show of the fall TV season emphasizes the themes of the Jewish New Year, most notably, how we redefine ourselves and begin anew. You won’t find this buzzworthy show on a major network. You won’t even find it on a cable channels responsible for some of television’s most recent hits, like FX or AMC. Netflix hit the jackpot a year ago when they began introducing original scripted programming, including the award-winning Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards.

Amazon has since tried to keep up and respond with their own original programming. They have finally succeeded with this fall’s new series, Transparent, created by the incredible Jill Soloway. The entire season will be available to stream on Amazon Prime on September 26th, but the pilot episode is available to stream now for free here. Vulture already called it the best pilot they’ve seen in years. Stop everything you are doing and watch it. You won’t regret it.

The series follows the interconnected lives of a Los Angeles Jewish family after discovering that the patriarch, Mort (an award-worthy performance by Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor), is transgender. The title is a play on words. Mort is the titular “trans parent.” However, the title gives greater insight to the questioning identities of all characters. Sarah is a married mother and wonders if her life is too boring, ordinary, and settled. Josh navigates from one fling to the next, being lonely without having a true partner. Ali feels like (and is viewed as) a failure, even if she hasn’t yet figured herself out.

While Jeffrey Tambor’s main role as Mort/Maura is a groundbreaking moment in Hollywood for the transgender community, offering dramatic and humorous insight into the world of gender identity, the other characters also, in their own ways, must come to terms with the transparent version of themselves as well. The version of themselves that they portray for the world to see is not necessarily who they are deep down inside. It is not how they feel. They too need to be true to themselves.

We do the same thing. It is human nature to try to conform and fit in, to try and be what society expects us to be. When we do that though, we do ignore the truest versions of ourselves.

The beauty of the Hebrew month of Elul and of the Jewish New Year is that we have the opportunity to start over. Teshuvah, repentance, rids us of past burdens. Elul allows us to let go of that which held us down, and allows us to start over. We are given the unique opportunity to begin again. We are given the opportunity to redefine ourselves and be the person we always knew we were and knew we wanted to be. We become our true selves. We are no longer burdened by how we conformed, by how others expected us to act, or by what others expected us to do. We do not hide who we truly are. We reveal our transparent selves to God and to community. That is what beginning anew is all about.

May we have the courage to be our true and transparent selves, to be whom we are supposed to be – because that is exactly who God created us to be.

Please note: Transparent starring Jeffrey Tambor, Melora Hardin, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, and Gaby Hoffmann, is available to stream in its entirely on Amazon Prime on September 26th. Episodes are Rated TV-MA for nudity, profanity, sexual content, and occasional drug use.

Guardians of the GalaxyImage via Wikipedia

Guard Yourself and Guard the Galaxy

There is no doubt about it – this summer’s biggest movie was Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy. It has grossed almost $300 million domestically and over $586 million worldwide, even though it hasn’t even premiered yet in the likes of Japan, China, or Italy.

This movie about a ragtag team of criminals seemed like a ragtag movie itself, surprising even hardcore comic book fans with its success, surpassing the original releases of Marvel Cinematic Universe heavyweights Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. It even surpassed its Marvel summer competition, the much hyped sequels Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

The movie is full of action, adventure, great special effects, and a surprising level of comedy. Telling a story that is less well-known than that of Marvel’s other successful superhero franchises, and getting audience buy-in, is much to be celebrated. Bradley Cooper voicing a raccoon with a machine gun and singing along to the catchy music of the film are just added bonuses.

The story is enjoyable, but somewhat complicated. It is like a more colorful and vibrant Star Wars tale, with Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt, playing a Han Solo-like Star-Lord. Quill, leads a motley crew of space bandits. Quill steals an orb that he attempts to sell. [SPOILER ALERT] Comic book fans get a thrill learning, after the Collector’s inspection, that the orb is actually one of the six infinity stones, hinting at greater things to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The maverick nature of his theft and actions leads one to think that these Guardians are only concerned with themselves. However, in reality, they sacrifice their own well-being for others.

Peter follows Gamora into outer space, giving her his helmet — without it his power is limited — in order to survive. Later, Rocket, risks his own safety for the sake of the group, crashing the Milano through the Dark Aster. When the Dark Aster crash lands on Xander, the tree-creature Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel, sacrifices himself to save the group. When it looked like Ronan was about to destroy Xander, Quill again risks his own well-being, and distracts Ronan, so that Rocket and Drax could destroy Ronan’s warhammer.

Part of being part of a group is understanding and accepting that you must look at for others, not just for yourself. In fact, in the case of these Guardians of the Galaxy, in often means looking out for others, even if that means sacrificing yourself.

During this month of Elul, we are taught to take responsibility for ourselves and for our own actions. However, how often do we really stop to take responsibility for the actions of others? We don’t. It doesn’t make sense to do so. How can we take responsibility for what another does or does not do? Yet, taking such responsibility is exactly what our liturgy tells us to do.

On Yom Kippur, when we publicly, and communally, confess our sins and wrongdoings, we do not do so as individuals. During the confessional prayer, we bang our chests and declare: We have sinned. We have transgressed. We acknowledge the mistakes of others just as they acknowledge the mistakes that we have made. For if they did not intervene, if they did not speak up, if they did not look out for us and try to help us, then they are equally responsible. If we did little to help others, then we are responsible as well.

During Elul, we are taught to guard ourselves, to reflect on who we are and who we want to be. We are taught to guard our words and our actions, but we also must guard others as well. We must look out for others, we must step up and protect others. To truly take responsibility is not just taking responsibility for ourselves; it is taking responsibility for all of humanity. May we come together as a group, despite our differences. May we see each other as brothers and sisters, fulfilling the vision of the Psalmist. And may we always guard each other, because to guard yourself, is to guard those around you as well.

Please note: Guardians of the Galaxy starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista, as well as the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, is Rated PG-13. The film, produced by Marvel Studios, directed by James Gunn and distributed by Walt Disney Studios, is the most successful and highest-grossing movie of the summer. A sequel is already in the works.

All About That BassImage via Wikipedia 

‘All About That Bass’ reminds us we are all made in God’s image

Meghan Trainor’s debut single on Epic Records, “All About That Bass“, was released in June and available to download, buy, stream, and listen for months. Yet, after spending the early portions of the summer barely in Billboard’s Hot 100 (it debuted at #84), the catchy tune skyrocketed during the month of August, from #28 to #8 to #4 to #2. It finally ascended to the top of the charts this week as the #1 pop song in the country.

At first listen, one might thing that the song is just about “booty shaking” and another example of degrading women as sex objects. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The lyrics are about empowering women, and all individuals, to recognize that they are beautiful. Trainor challenges societal expectations to look a certain way and to have a certain body shape – expectations that are a result of unrealistic photo-shopped images of models.

She sings:

I see the magazines working that Photoshop

We know that – ain’t real

Come on now, make it stop

She tells listeners and the world that these unrealistic models aren’t true role models for what boys and girls should strive to look like or compare themselves to. Instead, the song offers an important lesson. Meghan Trainor’s pop anthem with a doo-wop feel to it is truly about self-acceptance.

She embraces her size and encourages others to do the same, as she sings:

If you got beauty building, just raise ‘em up

‘Cause every inch of you is perfect

From the bottom to the top

The message of these catchy lyrics is profound during this time of year. During the month of Elul, we are taught to re-evaluate who we are and think about who we want to become. Yet, we also must recognize that we do not change because someone wants us to change or because society pressures us to look a certain way. We change because we want to change. We should not care about how others view us and how we look. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. Instead, we should worry about changing that which we want to change on the inside and loving how we look on the outside.

Judaism teaches the notion that each individual is made B’Tzelem Elohim, in God’s Divine Image. God’s Divine spark is within each of us. Our beauty is God’s beauty. The beauty of understanding that each individual is made in God’s image is accepting that no two individuals are 100% identical, that each individual is unique. Each of us — whether we are tall or short, overweight or too skinny, blonde, brunette, or red-head — is Divine.

On the High Holy Days, we symbolically stand face-to-face with God. In order to prepare for that experience, we must first stand face-to-face with ourselves. Look in the mirror. Smile. See your beauty and declare that beauty. For each of us is beautiful, made in God’s image. Each of us, as Meghan Trainor says, “is perfect from the bottom to the top.” Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.

Please note: “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor is her first single released by Epic Records. The lyrics include a couple of words that may be inappropriate for children. The song peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The Mindy Project

The YOU Project

Easily the funniest – and yet, most underrated – show on television is Fox’s The Mindy Project, starring Mindy Kaling. Mindy Kaling plays Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a character inspired by Mindy Kaling’s real life mother. Dr. Lahiri is an OB/GYN partner at the fictional Shulman & Associates. The character lives in a world in which she imagines that her love life will be like a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy. Episode after episode, she expects Mr. Right to sweep her off her feet. Many episodes end instead with her watching those romantic films that she yearns to make reality.

Throughout the sitcom’s first two seasons, Mindy dated many men (played by hilarious guest stars including Tommy Dewey, Mark Duplass, Bill Hader, Glenn Howerton, Tim Daly, and Anders Holm, among others). She sought a happily ever after experience, so time and time again, she molded herself to meet the interests of her boyfriends. She changed who she was and pretended to like what they liked, even if she didn’t care for the law that they practiced, or the alternative medicine they performed that rivaled Shulman & Associates’ methods.

The greatest example of her conforming was when she started dating – and became engaged to – an energetic and youthful Christian minister (even if she wasn’t Christian herself). She even took a leave from her medical office to do relief work in Haiti with her Christian Minister fiancé. However, by the second season, [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT] she ends up with coworker and best friend, Dr. Danny Castellano, played by Chris Messina. With Danny, Mindy doesn’t need to change or conform. She can be exactly who she is, exactly who she is supposed to be.

The title of the sitcom is a reflection of all of our lives’ journeys. The Mindy Project suggests that life is a project as we constantly change and adapt and try to figure out where we are going and where we are supposed to be. The lesson of this sitcom (besides the fact that it is hilarious) is that change is important, as long as it is change for yourself.

As we reflect during this time of year and look to change for the better, let us change for our own sake, not for someone else’s sake. Let us change to be the type of people that we want to be, not whom someone else wants us to be. Let us be ourselves, because each of us, made in God’s Divine image, is unique and offers our own unique insight and perspective on the journey of life. Let as accept that life is a work in progress, that life is a project. And let us be okay with that. Change for the better, but change for yourself and nobody else. Be happy with who you are, because that is exactly who you are supposed to be.

Please note: The Mindy Project starring Mindy Kaling is on FOX on Tuesday nights. New episodes return on September 16th. You can catch up on any episodes you missed from last season on Hulu. Most episodes are Rated TV-14 for sexual content and language.

RudeImage via Wikipedia

Words Hurt. Don’t Be So Rude.

One of the summer’s unexpected hit singles comes from the unlikely band Magic!. The song, “Rude“, is catchy and has gotten plenty of airtime, but its success is surprising because it is the band’s debut song. A band that no one has ever heard of rarely has a song that tops Billboard’s Hot 100 charts. Plus, Magic! describes itself as a Canadian reggae fusion band. I’m not even entirely sure what that is or what that means! Yet, their debut single off of their first studio album, Don’t Kill the Magic, the song quickly went viral, gaining over 9.5 million views of the music video on YouTube.

The song is essentially about a man’s conversation with the disapproving father of his lover. He is attempting to convince the father that he is a worthy partner to marry the man’s daughter. In some ways, the song seems out-dated, focused on an old-fashioned custom in which a parent’s approval must be given before someone pops the question and proposes. The song eventually accepts that this is an old-fashioned custom and the approval of the lover’s father is unimportant, as we read in the lyrics, “I’m going to marry her anyway.”

The chorus of the song though offers important advice, regardless of the situation, about how we speak to other people and how we talk to other people. In the world of social media, in which we share comments behind the security of a keyboard and computer screen, we forget about the impact that our words can have. We comment on Facebook statuses, respond to tweets, even write comments on blog posts, and feel that because we are typing instead of speaking, we can take a different tone.

The truth is, words – written or spoken – hurt. You can disagree with someone. Disagreement is natural. Disagreement is healthy. In fact, Judaism has volume upon volume of rabbinic literature because such scholarly disagreement among the rabbis has taken place over hundreds of years. We don’t always have to agree. We just have to think twice about the impact of the words that we say and type. When we share our thoughts and opinions, like the lyrics of “Rude”, we do not seek overwhelming approval and praise. We do seek, and should expect, respect from others. Sometimes, we are left to wonder:

Why you gotta be so rude?

Don’t you know I’m human too?

Why you gotta be so rude?

Our words have power. It is easy to be nasty. It is easy to be rude. Sometimes, it is much more challenging to smile and be polite, even when someone is saying something that we disagree with. That smile can go a long way. And it is never too late to start.

Elul is about change. Change the rude to a positive attitude. May we take advantage of this month to change the way we respond, react, and interact. May we take an extra deep breath and think about the words that come out of our mouths before we say them. May we go that extra mile and strive, even in times of disagreement, to not be so rude. Instead, let our words help. Let our words heal. Let our words inspire. Our words have power. Let them be used to make this world a better place.

Please note: “Rude” by Magic! is the first single off of the band’s debut album, Don’t Kill The Magic. The song peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Rabbi Jesse Olitzky

About Rabbi Jesse Olitzky

Rabbi Jesse Olitzky currently serves as rabbi and spiritual leader at Congregation Beth El in South Orange, NJ, where he lives with his wife, daughter and son. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Olitzky believes in creating multiple entry points to discuss issues of faith and God, including his Pop Elul Project. He blogs regularly at You can follow him on Twitter at @JMOlitzky

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