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‘Look What You Made Me Do’ — Change my bat mitzvah date
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is set to be the biggest tour in music history
Eleven-year-old Orlie Solzman was at Jewish overnight camp when Taylor Swift made a decision that would change her life.
The pop star announced in August that she plans to add four additional North American stops to her already massive Eras Tour, including three shows in Orlie’s hometown of Indianapolis. This would be welcome news for most middle school girls to receive in a letter from home. Except Swift’s Indianapolis shows — Nov. 1-3, 2024 — fell on Orlie’s bat mitzvah weekend.
“As soon as we heard the dates, my husband’s first reaction was, ‘We’re going to have to change her bat mitzvah,’” Orlie’s mother, Andrea Solzman, recalled. Their extended family lives out of town, and the Solzmans knew hotels would be impossible to book. (Every hotel in Indianapolis is currently sold out for that weekend, still more than 14 months away, according to Hotels.com.) The Solzmans’ preferred party venue, located near Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, would now be out of the question.
Within an hour, Andrea and her husband, Marc, had emailed their synagogue, Congregation Beth-El Zedeck.
“We are a large enough shul that we give out these dates back when the children are in fourth grade, so this date has been on the family’s calendar now for several years,” the synagogue’s cantor, Melissa Cohen, told Jewish Insider. Just one or two dates remained open, and the family settled on Labor Day weekend 2024.
“Had this happened last year, when we were still catching up with rescheduled dates [following the pandemic], I don’t know that this family would have been so lucky,” Cohen explained.
The whole matter was resolved before Orlie even knew anything was happening. She agreed with the move when she heard about it in a letter. Like her friends, she also wanted concert tickets — which her parents were not able to secure, even after waiting in Ticketmaster’s infamously long queue.
“If Taylor Swift reads this and wants to send us tickets, I mean, shoot, we will be ecstatic,” said Andrea.
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is projected to be the largest tour in music history, predicted to gross upwards of $2.2 billion in the U.S. alone. The superstar recently finished the first American leg of the tour, which involved the startling feat of playing three-and-a-half hour sets three times a week over five months. She just began the tour’s global leg, which will take her to four continents over the next year, before returning to America. Within that period, she will have released at least two albums.
“People are comparing it to Grateful Dead concerts, where you’ll have 70,000 people in the stands, and then another 20,000 or 30,000 people who are just around the stadium,” said Rabbi Brett Krichiver of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation. (Krichiver, a self-proclaimed Swiftie, managed to snag tickets for himself and his daughter.)
Swift’s effect on the local economy — and psyche — of each city she visits is indisputable. Her show brought Philadelphia its strongest weekend of hotel revenue since before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Philadelphia Federal Reserve officials. Illinois’ governor has said Swift helped the state break tourism revenue records. Glendale, Ariz., the Phoenix suburb where Swift kicked off her tour in March, temporarily changed its name to Swift City.
The downstream impacts of Swift’s tour on the Jewish community and Jewish events are similarly stark. Now that the Eras Tour’s massive scale is known, families living in the cities she will visit next fall — Indianapolis, New Orleans, Miami and Toronto — must decide whether to move lifecycle events including bar mitzvahs and weddings. Rabbis are considering how to incorporate Swift into their teachings, and many are cheekily planning to invite her to synagogue events such as Shabbat dinners or Sukkot gatherings (the fall harvest holiday takes place during Swift’s Miami tour dates).
“Taylor Swift weekend is now part of our programming calendar. We’re not going to counterprogram it,” said Rabbi David Gerber of Congregation Gates of Prayer in New Orleans, where Swift is slated to perform over Simchat Torah. But in New Orleans, a city known for its eclectic cultural events and a thriving music scene, ignoring Swift would be out of the question. “Our [Shabbat] theme next week is ShaBarbenheimer [‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’]. So it’s entirely possible that we’ll have, like, Swift-hat Torah or something.”
The first leg of the Eras Tour was announced last November, so anyone with an event already planned for this summer didn’t have enough time to make a change. Matt Goldberg got married in Minneapolis the weekend Swift played in the Twin Cities in June, and he and his wife could not get downtown hotels to give them more than five rooms for a room block.
“We just moved here last year, and all of our friends and family — we had 200 people at the wedding and 180 of them were coming from out of town. So we needed more than five hotel rooms,” Goldberg said. They ended up booking a room block at a hotel in the suburbs, which worked, although their observant guests had nowhere to walk around during Shabbat.
“Was it the biggest deal? We obviously figured it out, and it was fine. But it certainly threw a wrench in our plans,” Goldberg said.
Stories of Swift’s tour are shared reverently, with a mix of bewilderment and awe. They take on a mythical quality, as if the unlucky masses who could not secure a seat, or could not afford to pay more than $1,000 for a resale ticket, are lucky to simply be in the presence of those who attended the Eras Tour. (In the week after she performs in a particular city, look around: Eras Tour sweatshirts will be everywhere.)
Gayle Kertzman, director of programs, events and community relations at Toronto’s Beth Tikvah Synagogue, said that the synagogue’s bat mitzvah scheduled for the weekend of Swift’s Toronto shows has not been changed. But she shared a story — veracity unconfirmed — that could become the stuff of legend: A girl at her daughter’s sleepaway camp, two hours north of Toronto, left one weekend for what she claimed was a mysterious “doctor’s appointment.” A week after getting back, she told her friends that she had actually flown to Seattle to see Swift.
In Jacksonville, a rabbi reported that her Torah study class emptied out the weekend Swift performed in Tampa, the only Florida location. One woman confided that she nearly skipped her best friend’s wedding, where she signed the ketubah, to see Swift. At California’s Camp Newman, a URJ overnight camp, several counselors made special requests during their job interviews — which took place in January — to get a night off to see Swift in San Jose in July.
Dalilah Bernier, a Jewish professional in Milwaukee, joined the frenzied masses trying to buy tickets for Swift’s Chicago shows but struck out. So she agreed to staff Hillel Milwaukee’s Birthright Israel trip in June; it would be her last assignment before starting a new job. But then, through a stroke of luck, she was able to land two face-value tickets to see Swift in Chicago. Bye-bye, Birthright.
She justified the move to herself by pointing out that she had already traveled to Israel, and now her staff position might go to someone who had not yet experienced a free trip to Israel: “I feel like it’s very coveted to have the opportunity to staff Birthright. I don’t take that for granted,” she said. “I was happy to give the opportunity to someone else.” She found out she got the tickets while attending the Hillel International Global Assembly in December in Dallas. (At the Hillel conference, Bernier taught a class — developed with Lily Jasper-Zaccardo, another Hillel professional — on the Torah of Taylor Swift.)
Taylor Swift-focused sermons and classes have proliferated in synagogues, religious schools and Jewish summer camps this year. Rabbi Samantha Kahn, the senior associate rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, Fla., developed a class called “Eras Tour-ah” that she taught to dozens of teens at URJ Camp Coleman in Georgia this summer.
“It’s taking something that is language that they are familiar with, and that means something to them, and helping connect it to Jewish values and Jewish lessons,” said Kahn, who worked with Bernier on the curriculum. She’s since shared it with more than a dozen other rabbis.
The start of a new year of religious school will bring with it many teens who are devastated they didn’t get tickets to see Swift in Miami next year. Judaism has something to say to them, according to Kahn, who pointed to a line in Pirkei Avot: “Your friend’s dignity should be as precious to you as your own.”
“I’d say to anyone who didn’t get tickets, to really just remember that Taylor’s lyrics, along with Jewish texts, would say, ‘Don’t mope, don’t be sad,’” said Kahn, and “just figure out how to celebrate your love for her music in another way, and be happy for those who did get tickets.”
Easier said than done: Kahn already saw Swift this year.