Dana Mase is Jewish again. It has been a long and strange journey for the rock singer and Orthodox mother of five.
When the Ohio-native was growing up, her parents insisted that she and her siblings attend Sunday school at the family’s reform shul outside Cleveland.
“I hated it,” says Mase “It was totally boring and completely meaningless.”
Her childhood feelings about mandatory Hebrew school attendance are not uncommon. But, unlike many children growing up in Jewish homes, Dana (rhymes with banana) was extremely troubled by the spiritual void her synagogue experience had created. At 13, Dana was confirmed, her parents divorced, their temple membership went unrenewed and so did their Judaism.
It was not until five years later, as Dana neared the end of high school, that her personal faith resurfaced. She was at a friend’s house when she describes being overcome by a dizziness that she had never felt before.
“It was like the dam broke open and it became very clear there was a God in the world,” explains Dana “[My spiritual journey] began at that moment. A deep realization of God changed the whole course of my life.”
From there, Dana started to share her new-found spirituality (still unaffiliated) with friends, one of them Catholic. Together, the two visited a Christian coffeehouse where Dana says she felt instantly at home.
“I believed in Torah and God, but my Jewish experience was so horrible I thought ‘Judaism has no God!’ and the Christians did.”
With her Jewish father out of the picture and her Jewish mother expressing no opinion, Mase enrolled in a Christian missionary college in North Dakota and later transferred to Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Oklahoma, which teaches its students to spread Jesus’ message to non-believers.
Ironically, it was her time at ORU that Dana says “stirred up the Jewish soul in me.” More specifically, it was anti-Semitic comments made by two professors that struck a chord with Dana. “I was so insulted;” she says emphatically “[It was then that] I started wearing my Jewish star [necklace].”
Though she finished school at ORU, Dana had decided not to adopt Christianity. Her sister, who had become increasingly observant in the Jewish faith, invited her to visit New York City where Dana began reading books on Jewish spirituality, lighting Shabbat candles and turning down pork.
“I met a guy in Central Park who happened to be Jewish,” recalls Dana “He was the only Jewish guy I had ever dated and he strongly identified with being Jewish.”
The two explored Orthodoxy together and over the next several years, they fell in love with Judaism and each other. Today, Barry and Dana Mase live in an Orthodox community in Rockland County, NY with their five children (ages 10 to 18).
Dana admits she is not the traditional picture of an Orthodox Jewish woman. She’s a successful singer/songwriter whose songs have been featured on television (Dawson’s Creek and Joan of Arcadia), the big screen (The Amati Girls, 2001) and the Billboard charts. Her husband, Barry, is her manager. Dana’s music, which she started making at the age of 5, can best be compared with the sounds of Sarah McLachlan and Paula Cole though she describes her band as a “rock band.” Bandmates Aaron Comess (Spin Doctors), Andrew Carillo (Joan Osbourne) and John Carey helped shape her sound. The lyrics, entirely written by Dana, detail her spiritual journey, her turbulent teen years, and her views on the Orthodox community. In fact, Dana’s first album, “Diary,” (1994) speaks specifically to Orthodox women and her 2004 album “Thread of Blue” is named for the biblical commandment to wear tzitzit or fringes on one’s garment.
Dana’s latest album, “The Colors of Black and White,” compiles 14 of her favorite songs plus two brand new tracks. She says the album’s title was inspired by her experience in the Orthodox community.
“People think of [Orthodox Judaism] as black and white,” she says “but there are so many shades in between.”
Dana says her children are still developing their own “shades” within the community. For now, they all keep kosher, identify Shabbat as their favorite day of the week, and the eldest is studying at a yeshiva in Israel.
But Dana says, “I have a feeling my kids will rebel against me and become doctors and lawyers.”
You can download Dana Mase on iTunes or visit her website www.DanaMase.com for more information.