Seij Años

Jessi Roemer

About Jessi Roemer

I am a composer, musician, poet, and Hazzan ordained through ALEPH Jewish Renewal. My mother was one of the early-wave female Hazzanim/Hazzaniot in the U.S.. I learned from my mother how to claim Judaism and Jewish leadership as my own, despite the sexism baked into our traditions, language, liturgy, and centuries of minhag. From her I absorbed Hazzones, the Yiddish melodies of her family, the Ladino and Hebrew melodies of her mentors, Flory Jagoda and Saul Wachs, and the American folk melodies she grew up playing in coffee houses. I spent a teenage year and a decade of my early adulthood living in Jerusalem, learning the nuances of Israeli, Jewish and Palestinian life, music, cultures, and politics there. My work is to investigate the source from which spiritual experiences, music, art, and ritual all stem, root them in Jewish text and tradition and combine them in ways that facilitate human connection.

About Seij Años

This is a music video for my original composition, Seij Años, a musical setting of a Ladino translation of Torah verses from Parshat Behar, which gives instructions for how to observe the Shmita year. After recording the music, I started connecting shmita to hidur mitzvah: the connection between rest and integrating beauty into everything we do. In anticipation of this shmita year, I initiated a collaboration with a visual artist and videographer to create this musical/visual meditation on and celebration of what sustains us: land and its produce, work, art/music, connection, and rest. The musical meter is in seven, and the melody repeats seven times. Against this ongoing rhythm of sevens, I wanted the video to explore movement and stillness, creation and regeneration. I was interested in mixing static visual art into a moving medium like video within the melody and rhythm of the song — much like how our lives cycle through productivity and stillness within the rhythms of time, seasons, and shmita. Together, the other two artists and I explored the question: How do you show rest? The answer came in a repeated visual theme of slowed movement, people taking a breath, exhaling. The close-ups on faces emphasize what for me shmita is about: returning things to human scale, taking care of the human body and spirit, taking a moment to enjoy and breathe. Stopping to see the face of the Divine in each face, and the rest of the natural world. The art emphasizes the importance of fostering beauty and imagination through our work and our rest. Both visual media offer a glorious visual celebration of the land. And the music, for me, is the fertile ocean of sound in which all this flourishes. I hope you enjoy the result!