May 26, 2010

New shul prez

On Sunday our synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom, held its annual meeting and I was elected president of the board for the next two years. There were an unusually high number of members present. The business included a report from the outgoing president, a salute to volunteers and recognition of the volunteer of the year, by-laws revision, approval of the slate of directors and of the annual budget.

I know all the above would be kind of tiring for people to listen to for more than two hours, so I decided that instead of being another "talking head," I would sing my comments. I rewrote the words to the same Serbian drinking song that I performed at the Dunava concert. Here's the full text. I tried to post a video of my performance but was unsuccessful. However, it sure got people revved up about the synagogue!
I must begin by ‘fessing up. Many of you know that I recently started another chemotherapy to treat my metastatic breast cancer. Today I appear before you in very traditional Jewish garb: the tichel. Usually worn by married Orthodox women as a sign of modesty, it also suits women who have lost their hair to chemo!

Now on to the CBS presidency. When Steve Perlmutter and Ron Schneeweiss asked me to consider becoming the president of Beth Shalom, I thought long and hard and spoke to many people about what I should do. Rabbi Borodin gave me truly excellent advice. She said, “Do it because it brings you joy.”

In the Cohen family, we have a tradition of celebrating happy occasions by writing song parodies. We take a familiar melody, maybe from a Broadway musical, and write new lyrics to reflect our simchah.

Some of you know I have spent more than half my life dancing and singing the music of the Balkans. I’ve always wanted to find crossover between my love of Balkan tunes and Jewish life.

So in the spirit of my family tradition of re-writing songs, and taking the rabbi’s advice about finding joy in being your president, with some help from a friend on the accordion, I have rewritten a Serbian drinking song called Evo Banke Cigane Moj. I think you will want to sing along with these new words!

// Beth Shalom, it is our home
A Jewish home for you and me //

// Rabbi leads us on our way
Members donate money, time and say,
“Beth Shalom, it is our home
A Jewish home for you and me.” //

// Lift your glass to communal success
In ‘68 we started to progress //

// Eating, learning, praying in a group
People thrive in our communal soup.
Beth Shalom, it is our home
A Jewish home for you and me //

La la la
Beth Shalom, it is our home
A Jewish home for you and me!


  1. Congratulations. Your congregation knows what will keep you strong during chemo et. al.

  2. I salute you Madame President!

  3. Joseef Vleeschhouwer, Jerusalem3:15 PM

    Yerushalayim, Erev Shabbath Beha'alotecha

    You know Jill, that, via Shira, my wife Ruth and I follow your life already a few years,
    and during the same period "Yachne Miriam bat Masha Lea" is in my "Refa'aynu" prayers.

    I read your song, saw your video.
    Having lived through 2 years of Chemo with a granddaughter and another half a year of medicines, (She is "clean" and without medication now!) we have some idea about what you are going through.
    That is another reason I want to use this comment to hail your stamina and positive view on life by accepting presidency of your Shul.

    May G'd give wisdom to your doctors, and complete recovery and health to you and all ill people and grant you humor and wisdom--and yes, much Joy!--in leading your community.

    Health, Love and Peace,
    Joseef Vleeschhouwer