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November 26, 2010

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PAGE 22A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 26, 2010 20 Jewish cantors walk into a church it's no joke By Ruth Ellen Gruber thedrals in the United States and Britain already had expressed interest in similar concerts. The Nov. 16 performance featured a range of prayers and texts set to both tradi- tional melodies and music by composers dating from the Renaissance to the pres- ent day. In welcoming remarks, Monsignor Renzo Giuliano, the regular priest of the basil- ica, introduced the 90-minute concert as a journey into the ',profundity of the liturgy," saying it was "very important to be here together and prais- ing our God." The cantors, about half of them women, hailed from California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Texas. Dressed in black, but each wearing a sometimes (:olorful tallit, they sang in a vaulted side chapel against the back- drop of a crucifix, flickering candles and a wall-sized painting of the Madonna and child. Before each piece, a cantor stepped forward to describe the selection, explain its place in the Jewish religious service and provide information about the musical setting. "Our goal was to educate people in Jewish culture and Jewish synagogue culture," said Cantor Roslyn Barak of Temple Emanu-el in San Francisco, who helped coor- dinate the event. "We feel that through music you can heal, make friends, touch people, reach out." U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Miguel Humberto Diaz called the initiative "a wonderful opportunity." "Any kind of art, especially music, is away to bring people together for the sake of the common good," he told JTA. Diaz and the Rev. Norbert Hoffman, the secretary of the Vatican's commission on religious relations with the Jews, were among the few dignitaries in attendance. Highlights of the concert included an arrangement of the "Adon Olam" prayer by the Renaissance Italian Jew- ish composer Salamone Rossi and a stirring rendition of "Sire Shalom" by the Berlin- born 20th century composer Max Janowski, which featured Barak as soloist. The concert also includ- ed the world premiere of "Mah Ashiv Ladonai-Quid Retribuam Domino," a setting of Psalm 116, with words in Hebrew and in Latin, by Can- tor Erik Contzius of Temple Israel in New Rochelle, N.Y. Contzius, a member of the American Conference of Can- tors, did not take part in the concert. Jewish secular artists have performed on a number of occasions at Vatican events, but traditional cantors prob- ably would not perform in a church. Longtime observers of Jewish-Catholic relations said it was likely that the concert marked the first time that a cantorial group had performed such a concert in a Roman church. "Italian traditional cantors would not, as far as I know perform in a church, and I know of no instance when this ROME (JTA)--Can Jewish sacred music sung in a Ro- man Catholic basilica help relations between Christians and Jews? For the Reform movement's American Conference of Can- tors, the answer is a resound- ing yes. Twenty Reform cantors from across the United States traveled to Rome this month for just that purpose, perform- ing aunique concert of Jewish prayers and sacred texts at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a cavernous church adapted by Michelangelo from the ancient Baths of Diocletian. "We are here as spiritual emissaries, not political em- issaries," said the president of the cantors' conference, Susan Caro of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. "We recognize the power of music to transform as well as reach across cultural and religious lines." The concert, titled "To God's Ears," wasorganized by the New York-based Inter- religious Information Center in cooperation with Cardinal William Keeler, the emeritus archbishop of Baltimore, who is the basilica's cardinal priest. "Presenting music of the synagogue in churches in order to reach the laity could develop into something very, very worthwhile in interfaith relations," said the Interreli- gious Information Center's executive director, G.unther Lawrence. Lawrence said several ca- Lunch Ruth Ellen Gruber Cantor Lauren Bandman of Temple Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, Calif.., introduces the first piece in the contorial concert in Romem'Shalom Aleichem,  by William Sharlin. ever happened in the past," and met with Rome's chief, are Reform cantors and we the Italian Jewish musicolo- gist Francesco Spagnolo, the curator of collections at the Magnes Museum in Berkeley, Calif., told JTA. The concert was the center- piece of four days of meetings in Rome organized by the Interreligious Information Center for the cantors and more than two dozen ac- companying family members and other members of their congregations. The group met with sem- inarians at the Vatican's Pontifical" North American College and attended Pope Benedict XVI's weekly public audience. They also toured Rome's ancient Jewish ghetto rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni. That meeting also was a form of religious dialogue. Italy's Jewish community is Orthodox, and although there are a few small Reform congregations in the country, the Reform denomination is not recognized by the Italian Jewish communal organiza- tion. Di Segni did not attend the concert. Cantor Claire Franco of Port Washingtorf, N.Y., one of the coordinators of the concert, said Di Segni had been gracious to the group and answered its questions. "But he was clear that there are boundaries that they won't cross," she said. "We are very proud of this. That's - who we are--and half of us,, are women." Several cantors noted that interreligious matters were part of their hands-on expe- rience as Reform cantors, as many members of their con- gregations were intermarried. Franco noted that she was the child of a Christian father and Jewish mother. "I grew up as one of the few Jews in a small town in Flor- ida," she said. "I knew what being a minority was, what it meant to have to explain who we are. So I am committed to teaching community." To watch a video of the can- tor's concert, visit From page 1A lowed a day of lobbying, rep- resentatives of the three um- brella bodies--the JCPA, the National Council of Churches in Christ and Catholic Chari- ties USA--joined Obama administration officials in outlining how faith groups could partner with govern- ment to reduce poverty. Census estimates show that 40 million Americans live at or below poverty level. The programs wedded gov- ernment with church and synagogue in a way unimagi- nable before President George W. Bush launchedafaith-based 'initiatives office. Obama has tweaked some of Bush'S pro- gramming, weeding out more obvious expressions of faith, but he has embraced the partner- ship in ways other Democrats have not. David Hansell, the acting assistant secretary for health and human services, called on faith groups, for instance, to train volunteers in navigating the federal bureaucracy, and then in assisting the poor in obtaining available benefits they might not otherwise know exist. The supplemental nutrition assistance program, or food stamps, reach only two-thirds of those eligible, said Max Fin- berg, the director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Faith-Basedand Neighborhood Partnerships. Faith groups There's no place like It's the official source of federal and state government information. It can make you as all-knowing as the Wizard of Oz. 1 (800) FED-INFO A public service message from the U.S. General Services Administration, could bring the $133 a month available under the program to another 20 million people. The question looming over the proceedings was how such initiatives would be treated by the new Congress, in which the House will be led by Re- publicans spurred by the cost- slashing Tea Party. "The great frontier virtue of self-reliance must be leavened with the equally as American virtue of compassion," Hansell said at Monday's meeting. He used Tea Party rhetoric, which perpetually references the founders, to make the point. Officials note that the new poor come from the ranks of a class that is politically engaged, making it an issue that Con- gress would be hard-pressed to ignore. "We are now serving people coming in the front door who never envisioned in their life- times needing these programs," Kevin Concannon, an under- secretary for agriculture, said of government relief programs. Much of the talk afMonday's session was peppered with Jewish references, a sign of the dispropo'tionate Jewish voice in the initiative. Non-Jewish Gutow said afterward he did " speakers referred to the Pass- not see the changed political over Haggadah and to Hillel, climate as an immediate con- in addition to Old Testament cern because both parties are prophets, in making the case dedicatedtoalleviatinghunger, to alleviate poverty by 2010. "Hunger is bipartisan," he This is the third annual fall told JTA. mobilization for the initiative, culminating in aThanksgiving - time call for change. Jewish groups often take the lead in the public initiatives to highlight poverty. This year, Detroit's Jewish Community Relations Council joined a local Muslim umbrella body in organizing a day of free medical checkups for the poor. In New York, Hillels at New York University, Columbia Uni- versity and Yeshiva University joined to set up a homeless resource fair last month that provided blankets, clothing and food for the homeless. "Our goal is to humanize the homeless community's plight and inspire real reform to help these individuals find food and shelter," said Ilana Hostyk, the Yeshiva Univer- sity student who organized the fair. Wall From page 1A Israel has always been an important part of his life. Pittsburgh before answering All three of his children have a call to head a hospital in lived in Israel. He started a Pottsville, Pa., near the home program training medical of his immigrant parents and students from Israel at his large family, hospital. And he has been a Wallwentontoasuccessful strong Zionist and supporter career in medicine, becoming of Israel in many ways. president ofthePennsylvania "Dr. Norman Wall is the Heart Association, among, mostsenioractivememberof many other professional CongregationofReformJuda- honors. But Israel and Jewish ism,"said Rabbi Steven Engel, lifewere no less important. He "As his rabbi, it has been a gift took an active role in fight- tolearnfromhiswisdom, tobe ing anti-Semitism, as ana- inspired by his optimism, and tional commissioner of the tobe liftedby hiswit. Norman Anti-Defamation League, and is one of those rare individuals chairman of the ADL's Penn- who you feel blessed to have sylvania region, the opportunity to have met. Through his remarRable life and accomplishments you get a sense of what it means to be a Jew_ and to truly make a difference in the world." Sheba Medical Center's Rotstein will visit Orlandofor discussions with the leader- ship of Florida Hospital to ex- plore joint programs between the two organizations. And together, they will celebrate on Dec. 3 the shared history between them, and an active member of Orlando's Jewish community, Dr. NormanWail. For more information about the event honoring Dr. 2yorman Wall, contact Florida Hospital at 407-303-5600.