Shabbat on the Reggae River: An Auf Ruf, a Bar Mitzvah, and All-Night Jamming

What do you get when you cross California’s oldest and most prestigious reggae music festival and Shabbat Tent? That is what we were looking to find out.

The festival is nestled in the steep and wooded mountains of Humbolt County along the Eel River. Wherever you turn, the view of the mountains and trees is beautiful. 10,000 lovers of music sold-out the festival who camped and RV’ed wherever was possible.

Thanks to the organizers and producers of Reggae on the River, Shabbat Tent was given a very visibile and comfortable location  just next to the main venue entrance. Thanks to Elie Green and Daniel Kozmal (of Doc Green’s Healing Cooperative), the tent was decorated with futons, plants, artwork they brought up from Berkeley by cargo van. Shimon and team hung drapery from the ceiling, and at the entrances. the Shabbat Tent team also built a full mobile kitchen in the camping area for cooking and food prep so that all the meals would be fresh and delicious.

From the very start of the festival, people began to trickle in, and after a day there was constant traffic. More than one participant said, “Word is out that the Shabbat Tent is the place to chill out.”  The idea of a spiritual oasis made sense at the very spiritual and socially conscious music festival.

Some of the team took a small break in order to take a pre-Shabbat Mikvah in the cool and beautiful Eel River.

We drafted a band that played on Friday evening leading up to Kabbalat Shabbat and sang niggunim with some very talented Jewish musicians. The magic of the singing and music brought everyone together. Shabbat itself? Inspiring beyond belief. Kabbalat Shabbat started off with more niggunim, dancing, and another Shabbat Tent vegan pot-luck feast. We made Hamotzei on challah donated from Bibi’s and Continental bakeries. (Rabbi Yonah flew up to Oakland early Friday morning with two suitcases of challahs, pitas, rolls and other baked goods, then drove them up the rest of the way, so that they would be fresh.) And we were blessed that the wine was donated by Shirah Wine Company.

Shabbat Day proved even more popular. The burning heat sent everyone looking for cover, and we became a small oasis of friendly hospitality. We hosted Jews and other festival goers from all across the US, Chile, Brazil and Israel interested in Shabbat Tent and what the day of rest was all about. People really understood the idea of unplugging from the matrix for a day to concentrate on community, friends, and spiritual life. We celebrated the Auf Ruf (the Shabbat preceding a wedding) of Steve Lederman with a full Torah service, dancing, and lunch. Marcus Freed also led a yoga/mediation session before the services bagan – a popular program at all Shabbat Tents. During the services we made a “Bar Mitzvah” for Sander from North Carolina who had his first ever Aliyah to the Torah.

We were honored to host Rabbi Simcha and Margie Green, a retired couple from Berkeley and the parents of Shabbat Tent supporter Elie Green, who read the Torah and delivered some inspiring words.

Saturday night we started off our activities at 1:30 AM when Julian Marley finished. The Shabbat Tent band started playing as backup to Human Evolution, a socially soncious singer/songwriter who tours America with his catchy tunes and passionate voice. We named the band the Melava Malka. Human’s performance brought out a crowd of nearly 100 people. At 3 am we made a musical and fantastical Havdallah with Rabbi Yonah and Gideon, an extremely talented singer/songwriter who has been living and writing music in Jamaica for that last year. The jamming in the tent ended at 5am as the the skies began to lighten.

Mark, a festival goer who wandered up to the tent during the jam session told us that the Havdallah reminded him of his Bar Mitzvah 15 years ago. He was once very involved with his Temple, but as he got older he had less and less to do with his Jewish life. Havdallah meant so much to him, that he stayed until daybreak.

Lior, an Israel travelling the world after army service, had an aliyah on Shabbat morning. It was almost 10 years to the day since his last Aliyah – at his Bar Mitzvah in Rish L’Tzion. He still remembered the tune of the blessings.

There were more meaningful stories everyday of people that were grateful for Shabbat Tent and what it has to offer. Shabbat Tent made a huge splash at Reggae on the River hosting hundreds of people over four days and we look forward to returning to the idyllic river and mountains next summer.

Shabbat Tent at ROR was generously sponsored by Beth El Synagogue, Allen and Deanna Alevy, Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies, and the Hellman-Gibbs Family Philanthropic Fund.

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