The Santa Monica Synagogue and the Pacifica Institute—two separate communities, two separate backgrounds—took an inspirational step to build a bridge between the two communities through that universal language we call music.
There is no denying there are certain languages that cross over the barriers of nation, country, ethnicity, religion, etc.. The language of music, for example. Be it sung in Hebrew, Turkish, English or any other language, the soul of the melody touches the other and you feel connected. You build bridges across the borders that divide you. What was formerly “the other” becomes less the other and more a part of you.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon on April 7, 2013. The Santa Monica Synagogue was busy with the preparations and set-up as they got ready to welcome their guests from the Pacifica Institute. As the clocks neared 4 o’clock guests from both communities poured into the social hall where they indulged in sweet and savory refreshments, hot and cold drinks, but more importantly where they had a chance to be get to know and chat with members of both communities. Some had met before while others met for the first time, and as they mingled the seeds that would later come into leaf as beautiful friendships were planted throughout the crowd.
In the second part of the program, the guests took their seats in the congregational hall as the musicians finished their last preparations for the delightful show they were about to present.
The concert opened with Daniel Leanse and Toby Schwartz singing a prayer in blessing of the gathering. Daniel then took the stage as a one-person orchestra and gave a delightful performance on the piano, guitar and harmonica singing Sim-Shalom, May it be God’s Will, and How Many Roads. As Daniel urged the crowd to sing-along, he passed his energy over to the audience and everyone was now in the festive mood.
Following Daniel, two Turkish musicians, Munir Nurettin Beken on the oud and Osman Furkan Abbasoglu on the ney, or reed, indulged the audience on select pieces of classical Ottoman music. Before starting with their performance, Munir took a moment to speak a few words about the composers whose pieces they would perform, making reference to a Tanbouri Isak, a great Ottoman composer of Jewish descent. A serene and spiritual atmosphere took over the audience as they embarked on a journey to their inner self while listening to the soft melodies from centuries ago.
Last musician to take the stage was Toby Schwartz. Gracing the audience with her beautiful voice, she sang songs centered around the themes of peace and hope. Her upbeat songs and lively character soon had the audience clapping in rhythm and singing along with her. Shalom Aleynu, she sung, and continued with Sim Shalom, and ended with the most important message and theme of the day: Salaam-Peace!
As Tim Bowler, one of the organizers of the event, said, this was hopefully going to be the first of many beautiful and productive gatherings as the two communities strive to build a strong bridge connecting one to the other. The Santa Monica Synagogue and the Pacifica Institute both hope to have paved the way for lasting friendships and a collaboration of the two communities to work together for the betterment of the world.