Welcome to the 80s – The 5780s

By Esther D. Kustanowitz

“Another year has spun you right round baby, right round… like a record, baby.” What’s a record? If you know, you were around during the last time we experienced the 80s, or you’re a hipster who’s super-into vinyl. (Either way, we don’t judge — we appreciate.) While the 5780s will likely have tamer hairstyles than the 1980s, we thought we’d greet this new decade with a musical trip through the “old 80s” to find songs that will help us relate to the High Holy Day season in the “new 80s.”

Holiday! Celebrate! It’s a new year, full of potential, and still, you got up late. We know, you told your best friends to Wake You Up Before They Go-Go, but you were so trapped in Sweet Dreams that they decided to go to services With or Without You…With or With-Out-You-Oh-Oh. 

You lace up your walking shoes or get in your Cars (where you feel safest of all) — maybe even in your Little Red Corvette, parked over on Electric Avenue and head to the synagogue, JCC, chavurah, or neighbor’s house of your choice to get your Jewish New Year on.

On arrival, the place is packed. It’s like a Paradise City, where the grass is green and the repentance is pretty. Welcome to the Jungle: Rosh Hashanah’s Nothing But a Good Time (how could you resist?) to greet people you haven’t seen in a while:

“Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?”
“Come ONNN, Eileen!”
“Who’s That Girl?”
“Oh…Sherrie?”
“Jenny, I’ve got your number: 867-5309!”
“Don’t You Forget About Me…Call Me Any Day or Night!”

When you enter the sanctuary, you immediately Get Into the Groove. It‘s Just Like Heaven. You feel the power of prayer, which like the Power of Love, is a curious thing: it makes one person weep, and another one sing. You’ll get plenty of both over the course of High Holy Days wherever you go. 

Talking during the service? Beware of your Careless Whispers…Your Voices Carry.

Feel like you need a break? There’s a Meeting in the Ladies Room. (You’ll be back real soon.)

You Cherish this time. All is quiet, on New Year’s Day, so quiet you could hear it When Doves Cry. Then you wait to hear the shofar blow, which – Straight Up – Rocks You Like a Hurricane. 

At the end of Rosh Hashanah? Oh, you’re halfway there! It’s hard to be Living on a Prayer, but take my hand, we’ll make it I swear. You have 10 days to contemplate your life and how to make positive changes before Yom Kippur.

You wonder how much has really changed since last year. Time After Time, you’ve seen your own True Colors, as well as those of the people around you. There are times when you’ve been a Cold-Hearted Snake, and feel like you might be in a repentance Danger Zone. You don’t know why you Go To Extremes; you try to be True Blue, an honest person, but Honesty is such a lonely word. When it comes to good behavior and bad behavior, you wonder if you’re one or the other, or just on the Borderline, which feels like you’re going to lose your mind.

It’s Yom Kippur afternoon. You’re Hungry Like the Wolf and trying to Listen to Your Heart. The service seems to go on for The Longest Time, and you’re definitely staying for Yizkor,  the Memorial Service, so you can remember Rosanna: not quite a year since she went away. Then the rabbi announces a special speaker during the afternoon break, when you like to take a little nap to restore your spirit before the big finale, the Neilah service. What a dilemma, you say to yourself: Should I Stay or Should I Go? You Roll With It. You Listen to Your Heart. You stay.

You take the final prayers seriously, aware that it’s your last chance to Express Yourself to the Private Eyes (clap) that are watching you (clap clap): they see your every move. In the Final Countdown (doo-doo-doo doo, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo), you listen to poems painting God’s relationship with humankind as a shepherd and flock or as some call it, Master and Servant. As you stand, fasting, gazing at the Eternal Flame and hearing Every Breath You Take, you feel stirrings within your chest, a fluttering…a Total Eclipse of the Heart. You can feel it: there’s Something In the Air Tonight. It hits you like a Sledgehammer; It Hurts So Good. 

Alone, you think about all the things you’d do. If I Could Turn Back Time, you think, you’d take back those words that hurt the people in your life. You think about how People Are People, so why should it be that they treat themselves so awfully?

As you pray, you Shout. You Shout. You let it all out. And then, like that, Another One Bites the Dust. Yom Kippur is over for another year.

Afterwards, you’re trapped in the crowd, but manage to Push It and Bust A Move — past your best friend Harry who has a brother Larry–to the post-fast refreshments. You Just Can’t Get Enough juice and snacks. They have challah, and it’s the best, even before you put Jam On It. Jam On It. Jam on and on-on-and-on It.

With a little food in your belly, you look back on the promises you made of renewed belief, because you gotta have Faith. If you Don’t Stop Believin’ that It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right, then you can commit to being one of those two who makes sure it goes right. 

Despite the fast, “I’m Still Standing, better than I ever did,” you say. You’re feeling like a true survivor and also like a little kid. And you can’t wait to change from your Yom Kippur white clothes into your regular style: Back in Black.

You look around and see dozens of other people noshing and smiling. You think to yourself, if we can build this world together, standing strong forever, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

Shana tova – Happy New Year to one and all and have a meaningful Yom Kippur!

Esther Kustanowitz is a writer, editor and consultant based in Los Angeles, who growing up was a bit Madonna-obsessed and used to occasionally crimp her hair.

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