The "Heart to Heart Songbook's" Healing Message

Heart to Heart Songbook promotional materials courtesy of B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

A life-affirming evening of poetry and song, the “Heart to Heart Songbook” creates a beautiful synthesis of art and healing that gives audiences permission to safely spend some time thinking about themselves. Its Jewishness is cultural, musical, and spiritual; you leave the concert feeling closer to both G-d and yourself. 

Singer-songwriter Shira has taken author and spiritual counselor, author, and co-owner of NAOT footwear Susan Lax’s poems from her heartwarming book, A Heart’s Landscape, and has set them to music, creating songs of deep connection. Paired with readings of Lax’s inspiring writing and heart-to-heart conversation, the hour-long program explores themes of hope, grief, and gratitude, making it one unique and powerful event. 

Lax radiates wisdom and generosity. As she tells her stories, often about patients of hers who have struggled with their self-worth upon falling ill, one gets the sense that Lax’s presence alone could be healing. Whether it is in prose or in poetry, Lax has a deep empathy and a gift for tuning into exactly what her audience needs to hear. 

Shira’s singing voice is ethereal, almost Sara Bareilles-ian, floating above the room and making a sacred space (in this case, the sanctuary at B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side of Manhattan) feel even more sacred. Effortlessly, with just two instruments (she is also a wonderful guitar player), she is able to capture the uncapturable and evoke strong emotions in the crowd. Her passion and musicality elevate the evening to a truly special place. 

It is evident from the start of the show that Shira and Lax have discovered something magical in each other. During the recent concert, the artists discuss the generational gap between them, spanning decades—but, close your eyes, and it feels like you are hearing from kindred souls who have spent a lifetime together. Attending the “Heart to Heart Songbook” concert felt like witnessing the genesis of a beautiful, fruitful artistic connection. I cannot wait to see what else these two gorgeous souls make together and share with the world. 

Shira and Lax are confident and bold in their ability to communicate artistically across their individual mediums. They are so in sync that we are, too. It doesn’t matter whether a poem inspired a song or a song inspired a poem; personal stories and individual experiences are woven together into a tapestry of deep, spiritual understanding. Their language is uniformly beautiful, spoken or sung. 

Outside of the Jewish venue and the Jewish artists who crafted this performance, what makes the “Heart to Heart Songbook” so Jewish, to me, is the sense of understanding and community between Lax and Shira—which, in turn, fosters a sense of understanding and community in the audience. The artists share powerful stories that populate the entire spectrum of human discomfort, explaining how it feels to console a dear friend after a cancer diagnosis, how to stay connected to a long-distance partner, how to live through a pandemic when you can’t hug the people you love, and so much more. What’s more, they validate each other’s discomfort, and give us tools to deal with our own. I felt warm and comfortable as I listened to these women talk about their experiences and their attempts to navigate their struggles, I think, because I understood them as part of a collective history of experiences and struggle-navigation inherent to Jewishness. We are a people that makes it a point to continuously share both painful and joyful stories—so does the “Heart to Heart Songbook.”

With the help of a wonderful band and a gorgeous performance space in B’nai Jeshurun, the “Heart to Heart Songbook” is a stunning, powerful event that centers Jewish women and sparks difficult and essential conversations about how we view ourselves, how we view others, and how we view our short time on this planet.

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How to cite this page

Leiber, Sarah Jae. "The "Heart to Heart Songbook's" Healing Message." 11 April 2023. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 27, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/heart-heart-songbooks-life-affirming-message>.