Meet our Rising Song Residents!
Rena Branson is an educator and aspiring rabbi from New York. Through a labyrinth of circumstances, she met her Chassidish father for the first time in 2014, and singing nigunim together became a powerful spiritual practice. Rena dedicated herself to sharing these sacred melodies with people who might not otherwise have full access to the tradition. Inspired by Let My People Sing! and Chana Raskin's Raza project, Rena started A Queer Nigun Project, which hosts healing spaces for LGBTQ-identified people to explore and record nigunim. QNP is expanding to organize nigun circles in prisons, and is developing branches in Western Massachusetts and soon in Philly. Rena studied at Oberlin, Pardes, and Yeshivat Hadar, and served as an Avodah corps member at Footsteps. She's outrageously excited to grow as a collaborative musician and prayer leader through Rising Song!
Rebekka Goldsmith has been channeling her passion for voice, justice and community as a facilitator, song leader, vocal coach and ritualist for over a decade. She believes in the sacredness and liberatory power of the collective voice and regularly bears witness to the transformation that happens when people sing together. Rebekka leads prayer and Jewish song, directs community choirs, facilitates vocal improvisation-based retreats and runs a voice coaching studio. She has worked with people of all ages in Jewish congregations, schools, camps, retreats, workshops and assisted living communities. She recently completed her first album, Seeding the Tree, which explores themes of nature, mysticism, ancestry and the feminine in Judaism.
Eitan Bernard Kantor is a singer, songleader and violinist based in Boulder, Colorado. He sings and fiddles with the klezmer fusion band, Hadgaba, with whom he recently recorded the album, “E.P. (Ershter Prubirn).” Eitan serves as a High Holidays cantorial soloist at Penn Hillel and is the music director of the davening band at Congregation Bonai Shalom in Boulder. Through the creation of both religious and secular Jewish music, Eitan hopes to inspire social action rooted in Jewish values.
Batya Levine is a Jewish educator, ritual leader, facilitator, and musician. She leads spirited prayer and song in a variety of communities, including Isabella Freedman, Linke Fligl, SVARA, and Kavod Boston. She is a co-founder and organizer of Let My People Sing!, a national gathering which brings together a diversity of Jewish cultural and ethnic music for the sake of learning, sharing and creating liberatory singing space. Batya writes original music and her songs have traveled across prayer spaces and street protests, connecting people to themselves, each other, and spirit. Coming from a lineage of Jewish musicians, she has learned to use music as a powerful tool for healing and transformation. Batya is dedicated to carrying this practice forward, building resilience and interconnection on individual and communal levels.
Gedalia Penner is an experiential music educator, vocalist, composer and arranger from New York City. He received his BA in vocal composition from Yeshiva University. During his time there, he sang with his collegiate group, Y-Studs A Cappella. Since graduating, he has served as musical director of the now professional group, and continues to inspire communities with concerts and Shabbat engagement programs around the world with the Y-Studs and various other groups. He hopes to bring a “shcmaltz” - a raw spiritual energy that is deeply authentic, personal and easily accessible - to more and more communities across the globe.
Sam Tygiel is a composer, flutist and guitarist with a passion for all things new and experimental. After graduating from Macalester College with a bachelor’s degree in music and religion, Sam lived in Minnesota where he composed, performed and toured with his metal band, Maeth. Sam also organized and promoted world premiere concerts of groundbreaking chamber music with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series as well as Punk-Ass Classical, a series of contemporary classical basement and living room concerts that he co-founded with fellow Macalester alumnus Bess Boever. Sam is currently preparing for rabbinical school and is particularly interested in helping communities develop spiritual awareness and emotional openness through music, prayer and study.
Ariel Root Wolpe
Ariel Root Wolpe is a songwriter, mother, and soon-to-be rabbi who crafts sacred experiences through music, nature and Torah. Originally from Philadelphia, Ariel grew up in an observant household where hiking was a typical after-shul activity and blessings were sung harmony. Ariel began performing Jewish music during a gap year in Israel, and facilitating interfaith music and programming through her undergraduate years at Emory University. In the San Francisco Bay Area Ariel met her husband Jon in a band and explored ritual innovation in Jewish Renewal circles and earth-based education through Wilderness Torah. While at Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Ariel focused on the process of t’shuvah, hasidic commentaries, and feminist interpretations of Jewish history and ritual. Her daughter Oriah’s birth was the impetus for a study of Jewish texts and rituals to usher in motherhood. You can read more and listen to Ariel’s music at www.arielwolpe.com.