Feb. 23, 2014
The first-ever interfaith concert for the restoration of the Jordan River was held in Brooklyn on February 23, 2014 at the Kane Street Synagogue. The event was one big high. The musicians, spectacular, all got along great, spontaneously joining up with each other.
Samer Tabari was super exciting – people were clapping and would have danced, as he sang playing the keyboard a mawal (prelude song) about the Jordan, then a song called Ya Elordonya (Oh Jordan), and then the vibrant song for fairouz saloni el nas. Joey Weisenberg and mandolin backed up Samer in a very moving way.
The Peace of Heart choir were rousing and got people singing along with Peace/Shalom Salaam, Down by the Riverside, and their signature song Let There be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin with Me. At the end, everyone joined in to sing Michael Row Your Boat Ashore.
Dave Hall, a highly accomplished musician, accompanied himself on the guitar tugging the heart strings with Across Tiberius, written by himself on a melody by J.S. Bach and then All My Trials, an American traditional song with the words, “Jordan River is chilly and cold, chills the body but not the soul.”
Joey Weisenberg, as always charismatic and engaging, as part of a five-member band performed a song he wrote about the Jordan River, Rise, Rise Sweet Waters: it had the elements of a spiritual and everyone sang along at the top of their voices. Joey introduced it by sharing some stories from the Midrash about the Leviathan (the primordial, massive sea-creature) and the Re’em (a formidable mythic Bull) — able to drain and despoil the river in ways painfully reflective of what has actually transpired in recent decades, the very real damage by contemporary governments.
Rabbi Simkha Weintraub’s remarks were perfect and inspiring, “Abraham crossed over from Mesopotamia, and the Israelites crossed over after wandering for 40 years after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The Jordan River stimulates in us a profound appreciation of our history and the memory of our journey, recalling our heritage and our freedom…. The Jordan is there to be crossed over, if you will. It calls out to us to join heads, hands, and hearts with the Other, to reach across boundaries, with the peoples on the other sides of this remarkable water system that navigates from lush sources high up North through all kinds of territory to the lowest point on Earth, the salty Dead Sea.”
Dr. Ahmad Jaber’s remarks too were to the point, ranging from his experience as a youth in Palestine of the flowing River Jordan, and then a visit last year to a much different river; the relationship of the river to Islam, Mohammed’s companions buried by the river, giving their names to places; and the assertion that if the sides can get together to clean up the river, then they surely can make peace.
FoEME’s Israeli Director Gidon Bromberg was on hand to update the crowd about the current state of the Jordan River and how they could join FoEME’s campaign to rehabilitate the Jordan River by endorsing the Jordan River covenant and taking action in their local communities. More ideas for how faith based communities and others can support the rehabilitation of the Jordan can be found in our faith based publication series.
The event was organized by Roberta Weisbrod Ph.D. an environmentalist, Co-chair of American Friends of Friends of the Earth Middle East from its earliest days, and Rabbi Simkha Weintraub.
More about the artists:
Samer “Sami” Tabari (listen https://soundcloud.com/samer-tabari) is a Palestinian vocalist who comes from a family of musicians and singers. He began to learn and play keyboard at age 11 and by age 14 was performing at weddings and parties with many famous singers and musicians. At age 18, Tabari moved to the U.S. and formed his own band. In addition to being a vocalist and musician, Tabari is also a producer and composer.
The Peace of Heart Choir http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLL5K_jBuZA formed immediately after 9/11 to participate in a community-healing event. By November of that year they had their first stand-alone concert, now giving about 20 concerts a year. Their mission is to promote healing, diversity, community bonding, and mutual understanding within local communities. As part of this mission, they go out into the community free of charge, for non-profit organizations, area shelters, hospitals, service providers, and any not-for-profit engagement that promotes healing, diversity, community bonding and mutual understanding.
David Hall, http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ew10vcucKoF9UJp0aTfmg a fourth-generation Brooklynite, is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. He’s known for his recordings and performances of his original folk-rock, his work as a composer and lyricist for musical theater, and for his Chamber music. A multi-ethnic American, he’s very proud of his Arab heritage and is deeply committed to peace, democracy and human rights both in the US and in the Middle East. An ardent environmentalist, he is glad to be present at this event. “Across Tiberius” is one of the most expressive songs performed.
Joey Weisenberg (http://joeyweisenberg.com/videos-music-books/videos/) is a mandolinist, guitarist, singer and percussionist based in New York City, who has performed and recorded internationally with dozens of bands in a wide variety of musical styles. Joey works as the Music Director at Brooklyn’s oldest synagogue, the Kane Street Synagogue, and is the music faculty at Yeshivat Hadar, an egalitarian yeshiva in New York. Joey visits shuls and communities around the country as a musician-in-residence, most recently Alaska, in which he teaches his popular ‘Spontaneous Jewish Choir’ workshops.
Rabbi Simkha Weintraub is the Rabbinic Director of Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. His mission and function is healing, now centrally involved in New York Jewish Healing Center and National Center for Jewish Healing. He frequently participates in interfaith conferences in the Middle East in Muslim nations. Simkha has a strong connection with EcoPeace/ Friends of the Earth Middle East, when has a Director of Public Education of New Israel Fund he supported FoEME’s early efforts.
Ahmad Jaber is a doctor, a gynecologist/obstetrician who delivered over 5000 babies. He was born in Palestine and came here to study and live in 1974. In early 2001 he co-founded the Arab American Association of New York as a social service organization, which after September shifted its focus to express interfaith solidarity as well as to protect the rights of members. He is Chairman of the Board of Brooklyn’s first mosque – The Dawood Mosque– and is a very active member of the Brooklyn Interfaith Clergy.
This post is contributed by Roberta Weisbrod, Co-Chairperson of American Friends of FoEME
Photographs by Hai Knafo