From Michael Hunter Ochs:
As long as I can remember the fall has been my favorite time of year. Maybe it has something to do with the warm sunny days followed by the cool autumn nights. Or the changing colors of the leaves. The baseball playoff races!
But mostly it’s the the High Holy Days. Having extra time to share with family and friends around the holiday table. The delicious aromas of Mom’s Matzah Ball Soup wafting through the house. Walking to temple with my Dad and brother, sitting in our usual seats. And then... those familiar melodies. Year after year those melodies returning and offering a sense of continuity and connectivity. Rosh Hashanah - A New Year - was a calm in the storm, a time to reflect, and a chance to hit the reset button.
So it was a particular privilege to meet with Rabbi Rubenstein in the spring of 2016 to begin the process of creating an original prayer in song for the upcoming New Year. It would be grounded in Jewish liturgy - yet universal in it’s message and optimism. It should be easy to sing and easy to remember and lend itself to a choral arrangement. And it should be uplifting.
I began by sitting quietly for 3 days in the sanctuary of Congregation Micah in Nashville, TN…not yet ready to begin writing the lyric or melody. I read the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services from cover to cover - twice. Began thinking about the challenges this world might face in the year to come. About the challenges I was facing in my own life and the obstacles so many of us have to face everyday.
Eventually my thoughts turned in the other direction - towards the limitless hope I feel in knowing that each one of us has the power to make a difference. Each one of us has the power create positive change in our small corner of the world - and that it all adds up. From there the song poured out...
May this be a year of love and kindness
May this be a year strangers come to be friends
May this be a year of hope and healing and forgiveness
May this be a year of peace
May this be a year of... you fill in the blank - make it your own song, your own prayer... your year.
Deepest appreciation to Rabbi Peter J. Rubenstein and the entire team at the 92nd Street Y - I am humbled and inspired by our collaboration. And to each and every singer who poured your voice into this song... thank you.