The April First Friday service and meal at Temple Israel will be extra special this month as the congregation welcomes Cantor Ellen Dreskin to lead the evening service.


Cantor Dreskin, the Coordinator of the Cantorial Certification Program at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR in New York, will lead the congregation in song and musical prayer.


The music will be a mix of contemporary and camp sing along, with accompaniment by the First Friday volunteer band–Jon Bleicher, Tom Friedman, George Walker, Alex Pachman and Julie Sandene–as well as some more spiritual songs that she will perform solo.


Anyone interested in performing with the First Friday band is encouraged to contact Cantor Wendy Shermet. They usually practice two or three times during the week leading up to the First Friday, as well as before the service begins.


“In the eight months that we’ve been doing this, the band has really gotten a feel for what we want our Friday night services to be,” Cantor Wendy Shermet said.


After the service, congregants are invited into the Friedman Social Hall for a relaxed, family meal and schmoozing.


“We have such a great mix of congregants attending,” Andie Gordman said. “It gives people who might not otherwise meet a chance to get to know each other better.”


The First Friday program began in September 2012 as a way to bring the Temple Israel community together to celebrate Shabbat and spend time with each other. It has been generously underwritten by members of the Gordman family in memory of Brandon Thomas.


“It really warms my heart when people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoy the First Friday experience,” Gordman said. “I think it is so important that we provide many options for our families to celebrate Shabbat with our community and this has proven to be a very popular way for congregants of all ages to come together to worship and enjoy a meal.”


Traci Kugler and her family also enjoy attending First Fridays, because they “are a great opportunity to interact with other Temple families in a kid-friendly environment.”


To RSVP for the April First Friday, email or contact Program Director Wendy Goldberg at 402-556-6536.


Cantor Dreskin’s visit to Temple Israel is sponsored by the Hermene Zweiback Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning. Cantor Dreskin is an innovative leader in today’s Reform Movement. Her expertise extends from music to synagogue transformation, from experiential education to enlivened liturgy and mysticism. She has worked with Jews of all denominations throughout the United States, both as a scholar-in-residence and in her capacity as past Director of Programs for Synagogue 2000, a national, not-for-profit institute dedicated to revitalizing and re-energizing synagogue life in North America.


Cantor Dreskin has also created a program for teenagers called Shul House Rock that she runs twice a year as a way to encourage musical teenagers to become songleaders themselves.