Jewish singer-songwriter Alex Blue, formerly known as Alex G, recently released a music video for her first song in Hebrew. It’s a version of the prayer Shalom Rav, which happened to be my favorite growing up. In Hebrew school, my friends and I learned the melody by Jeff Klepper and Dan Freelander, and we thought it had the prettiest tune of everything we sang in shul. But Alex Blue’s rendition rivals it: She’s set the text to a lovely original melody.
Shalom Rav is an especially apt prayer choice for this moment, when the world is desperately in need of some calming influences. It typically comes at the end of the evening service, during the Amidah, as worship is drawing to a close, and it’s considered a prayer for the collective good of all people, for all time. The Hebrew roughly translates to “grant peace over your people, Israel, forever.”
It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful experience than Alex Blue’s video. She stands by a creek in the middle of a forest, accompanied by a gentle guitar and the, in her words, “angelic harmonies” of Casey Breves. Her surroundings soothe our nervous, buzzing 2020 brains: mossy trees! Dappled sunlight! Purple flowers! In the midst of the forest’s vivid green, a few early fall leaves float on the water, conjuring cozy autumnal activities.
Alex Blue came to Judaism relatively late in life. Alma had the pleasure of interviewing her back in May, when she told us that, though her father grew up Jewish, he converted to Christianity when she was 7. She connected with her Jewish roots a few years ago after discovering that she was half-Ashkenazi through 23&Me. Since her conversion less than a year ago, she has delighted in finding a community that “felt so familiar even though I had never been there before.”
Along with her queer identity, Alex’s Judaism has allowed her to “feel integrated for the first time.” To her, Judaism means “taking care of people and leaving the world better because of the life we lived.” This prayer, this video, and the message she posted along with it — “May all who suffer today find peace, and may we have justice so peace comes a bit easier” — all feel deeply in line with that mission.
Her 1.5 million strong YouTube following seems to be welcoming the new Hebrew direction with excitement. She asked her subscribers to leave a comment about how they find peace (maybe inspired by Alma’s “How I Keep Calm” series?), and one simply replied, “This song is so relaxing.” In a moment when everything on the internet seems charged, stressful, or both, it is a gift to spend a few moments in the woods near a babbling brook with Alex Blue. In her voice, this prayer has done its intended work, and brought peace to her audience — and to this child of Israel.