To further explain how listening and hearing are different skills, Buffalo Grove Cantor Nancy Diamond Landsman showed the distinct ways the words are communicated in American Sign Language.
While leading services at Congregation Ahavat Olam, which serves the northwest suburbs, the rabbinical student believes that everyone is listening, though she knows some are not hearing.
During the High Holidays this season, after 34 years of singing with her voice, Landsman is learning how to sing with her hands simultaneously, in American Sign Language.
“I’m thinking in Hebrew and English, and ASL,” Landsman explained. “At first, it’s challenging. But the more comfortable one becomes with the signing, it becomes less challenging.”
The congregation, a year-old group of about 25 members, is hosting its holiday services for about 50 worshippers in the parlor of Christ United Methodist Church in Deerfield.
Congregation Ahavat Olam first gathered on Aug. 3, 2012, and its board filed the paperwork to incorporate in May. Landsman said the group focuses on casual settings, often holding services in members’ homes. The congregation also makes a special effort to welcome and reach the hearing-impaired, singles, the divorced and the widowed.
“There are so many unaffiliated Jewish people who are searching for a congregation that will really embrace them,” Landsman said. “Some people, they love this, and other people, they say ‘You know, it’s not as formal as what I’m accustomed to.’”
Landsman, a Glenview native who now lives in Buffalo Grove, said she loves the small-town feel.
While she was happy as a cantor, playing piano and singing soprano with Am Shalom in Glencoe, Landsman was excited to take on broader responsibilities as a spiritual leader.
“I have felt that there was more inside of me to contribute than just my singing voice,” Landsman said. “But I never really listened to it, because I love singing.
“I never dreamed that becoming a rabbi would be as rewarding as it’s been so far.”
After accepting the new position at Ahavat Olam, Landsman started studying at Bene Shalom’s Hebrew Seminary in Skokie. Her specialty has becoming learning to sign, and she relishes pointing out the intricate connections between her service’s three languages: Hebrew, English, and American Sign Language. And, between her service’s spoken and unspoken words, and its music.
Landsman had never written a song of her own before her new congregation named itself Ahavat Olam, which means either “everlasting love” or “love of the world.” Moved by the new moniker, she wrote a song of the same name, which the group now sings together.
The song also serves a functional role for a group still learning the correct pronunciation of Ahavat Olam.
“How are we going to remember how to pronounce this?” Landsman asked herself when her group voted in the admittedly tough pair of words.