Something very special happened yesterday (Sunday, March 1).
In the intimate chapel of Temple Ohabei Shalom, over 100 people gathered to hear a program of sacred music. In and of itself, that’s not too unusual. But on this day, a South Indian Classical Music singer, Deepti Navaratna, joined Cantor Randall Schloss. And the audience included both Jews and Hindus who had come together to participate in this “Dialog with the Divine” concert in which the singers and musicians created a mesmerizing mosaic of Hindu and Jewish music.
The audience was mesmerized. There was clear, tangible energy in the room. It was an energy that went far beyond appreciation of musical excellence. It was the energy of transcendence. It was the unspoken feeling of appreciation of the moment, that there we all were, Hindus and Jews, young and old, together sharing our tradition. But it went even deeper than that. There was a shared appreciation of the very fact that we were all together, that we were able to share our desire for a deeper sense of oneness with the divine spirit, regardless of whether it is thru Om or the Shma. Yes, our prayers, rituals and theisms differ, but for one afternoon, we were united in appreciating our faiths, our open hearts, and our shared ideals for finding a meaningful to dialogue with the divine.
Shakti or schechina? Raga or hazzanot? The choice is ours. We can use our differences to drive us apart. Or as Deepti and Randal and their eclectic ensemble (Iranian violinist, Layth Al Rubaye, Brazilian percussionist, Gilbert Mansour, and the pride of Nahant, pianist David Sparr) showed, we can use these differences to create inspired bridges of understanding.
The concert closed with a special surprise. Deepti had taught a group of her music students two Yiddish songs. When they finished, there was an instantaneous, roaring standing ovation. Hindus and Jews alike were blown away by the joy and thoughtfulness of these Indian children learning songs to sing at Jewish music festival. Hindu or Jew, there was an awful lot of kvelling going on.
There are several more events planned as part of the Music Builds Bridges theme of the 2015 Boston Jewish Music Festival. If you can experience just a small percentage of the feeling of sharing and community that filled Ohabei Shalom on Sunday you will be glad you did.
Some years, BJMF sells musical CDs as a memento. This year, we only wish we could bottle that electrifying wonder and sense of sharing Deepti and Randall’s music created.