Kaplinsky adds new Jewish spiritual role to his acting career.
By ALAN SMASON, Exclusive to the CCJN
For as long as he can remember, David Kaplinsky has had a calling as an actor. Like all members in his Conservative congregation, the period of introspection known as the Days of Awe, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, has always held great spiritual resonance for him, but his kavanah (spiritual intention) and teshuvah (repentance) has been acted out previously as part of the ensemble.
Now, as a newly-enrolled student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Kaplinsky has assumed new duties at his Metairie spiritual home of Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation as the sheliach zibbur, or service leader, and he finds himself in a starring role opposite Rabbi Deborah Silver, herself a Ziegler graduate.
Silver, who hails from Britain, found her original calling in the theatre, similarly, and she and Kaplinsky discovered they share a mutual love for Shakespeare.
But the stage they have shared this year is one that is different from any other.
With virtual technology employed for the first time at Shir Chadash during the High Holidays and seating limited due to the continuing COVID-19 restrictions, the two have had to make changes in the usual program, cutting some of the lines when deemed necessary and creating new spiritual spaces through the internet via Zoom.
Like a director and a dramaturg admiring each other’s work, the two share an appreciation for what the other brings to Shir Chadash’s High Holiday religious services this year. “She is a fantastic rabbi and we just get along,” Klapinsky admitted in an exclusive phone interview with the CCJN.
“Her job is officiating the service, bringing meaning to each of the parts through various kavanot as well as a number of times she is singing with me, harmonizing or singing a duet,” he added.
Aside from former executive director Will Samuels, who traditionally leads the early portion of the morning services, Kaplinsky has led or will lead all the other portions of the morning services, which include Shacharit and Musaf and the evening services.
For Yom Kippur, his time in the religious spotlight begins with Kol Nidre this evening and continue tomorrow as he leads Shacharit, Musaf, the afternoon Minchah service and the concluding Neilah service throughout the day.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to the rabbinic student is the leining of the Torah, which he must daven using specific tropes and without benefit of vowels, memorizing each word as it appears in the sefer Torah before him.
The matyrology, in which the lives of Talmudic heroes of legend slaughtered by the Romans is recounted, is also being minimized this year.
The central monologue for Rabbi Silver will be the d’var Torah, or sermon, which is also affected this year.
“Actually, she won’t be doing her sermon(s) live,” Kaplinsky explained. “She’s pre-recording them (and) for those who are on Zoom, they will play after Musaf in order not to elongate the service.”
Those familiar with the usual Yom Kippur reading of the Book of Jonah during Minchah may also be disappointed to learn that has been eliminated for expediency as well. “They’re going to have a reading ahead of time,” he noted.
A “holding minyan” of ten persons is being held on site in order to maintain the spiritual integrity of the services, which are being live streamed, he added. Those that are on site will be socially distanced and wearing masks.