Justin Stein grew up in a musical home. His father was a country musician for 17 years before becoming a cantor. He has been playing bass since he was a child. Now he is a vocal performance major at CSUN. He performs in his family band, The Rolling Steins and in a Middle Eastern Jam Ensemble.
How would you describe the Nashuva band?
The Nashuva band is composed of musicians from all walks of life. But we share a common spiritual sensibility. Each member brings something different to the ensemble—Middle Eastern music, African music, jazz, rock, choral music, Eastern European Klezmer music and it all comes together to form a very unique sound.
What is it like to play music with your brother at Nashuva?
Out of all the experiences I get out of music, playing with my family is one of my favorite things. My brother and I are very close friends and we love working together. And being able to work with him at Nashuva makes the experience all the more close to my heart.
How is Nashuva different from other synagogue experiences you’ve had?
Nashuva creates community. Everyone seems to be pulled into the same center. People feel comfortable crying, laughing, dancing. In most settings you won’t find that. It’s really great to be working with a rabbi who is so interested in the spirituality of the service and has such a desire to connect with the community and all her efforts are related to the spirit.
What have you learned from your experience at Nashuva?
Aside from the soulfulness I receive from playing at the service, I am able to watch the service and I get the opportunity to hear fantastic sermons. I get a lot of information and insight from Naomi and one of the things that impresses me most is not just the words she’s saying, but how everyone is captivated by what she’s saying. No one is talking to their neighbor. Everyone is able to receive her words in a very emotional and spiritual way.
What is it like for you to be in the Nashuva Band?
It’s experiencing spirituality through music. Being able to pray with your instrument. To express how you feel through music with your peers. Being part of the Nashuva band has been an amazing experience. You are a link in a project that moves so many souls. There is a massive spirituality. My favorite thing is watching how into it people are. I can feel the energy—it’s shining and beautiful. Also, I feel that Naomi and I have a partnership. I’m not working for her; I’m working with her in creating this experience, this community.
What is your experience of prayer at Nashuva?
Nashuva is one of the only prayer experiences where I’ve been able to feel that the whole community is connected to each other and to God. Everyone is on the same page. They are all different ages and backgrounds, but there is this common bond: God, soul, music.
How is Nashuva an expression of your Judaism?
It is a different experience. The community is so involved. I’ve played in many different services and often the environment isn’t conducive to soulfulness. I have a deep interest in contemporary prayer and that’s what Nashuva is doing—it’s creating a new tradition without throwing out the old one.
When Naomi first told me she had made new translations of the prayer service I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I didn’t know her. I hadn’t read her books. But when I took home the prayer booklet and sat with it and read through it, her prayers were absolutely beautiful. It’s about time someone put out a translation of the prayers that people can really understand and connect with.
How would you describe Nashuva?
Despite what your background is, there’s something at Nashuva you can connect with. A musical spirituality. You feel the energy of the music and then you gather something personal from the words Naomi speaks. I know that in other worship services that connection is not always there. Nashuva is connection. It’s such a different experience. It’s something congregations have been trying to achieve, to infuse new music into a service and still have it be spiritual and not a concert experience. At Nashuva we are not performing for an audience. We are praying with a community.