SING FOR HOPE: 300 Interfaith Voices Uniting Our Country through Song - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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SING FOR HOPE: 300 Interfaith Voices Uniting Our Country through Song

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Credit: Henry Winokur

More than 300 singers representing 45 varied faith and secular organizations from Northern Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia joined together in one musical voice to bring hope and unity to a divided nation on Sunday, November 27, 2016, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

The concert, developed and organized by Cantor Michael Shochet (HUC-JIR/New York '94) and Cantor Rachel Rhodes (HUC-JIR/New York '14), brought out nearly 1,000 people to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial from all different faiths and backgrounds and joined in songs of peace, love, and hope.  “Music brings healing and comfort,” said Cantor Michael Shochet, “and is surely needed at this time of uncertainty because of the election.” Cantors Shochet and Rhodes, of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA, a congregation of nearly 1,700 families, were inspired to create this event after witnessing the ever increasing incidents of hate and division in our country following the national election. “By raising our voices together in song, we were able to build bridges of understanding and hope,” says Cantor Rhodes.

Credit: Henry Winokur

The program featured choral singing by an impromptu interfaith choir of more than 300 singers as well as additional selections by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC, the Congregational United Church of Christ in Arlington, VA and the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) of Sterling, VA  Cantors Shochet and Rhodes emceed the event and led the audience in a sing along with Cantor Susan Caro (HUC-JIR/New York '93) and singer/guitarist Robbie Schaefer of the band Eddie From Ohio. Renowned lyric soprano Ariana Zuckerman also led some of the singing, which included popular folk and patriotic songs to inspire hope and unity.

Cantors Shochet and Rhodes conceived of the idea following a choir rehearsal where people talked about how music can be so comforting at an uncertain time. The next day, the two Cantors decided to create this event and applied for a permit with the National Park Service to hold it at the Lincoln Memorial, which was always a dream of Cantor Shochet’s. In just 10 days, the cantors amassed 300 singers and many faith community and secular choral sponsors, along with busing in synagogue, church, and mosque audience members. They quickly branded the concert and set up committees to help select music, get the word out, organize volunteers, and arrange logistics.

Credit: Laurie Brown

Sing For Hope was sponsored by faith communities and organizations nationally and locally including: Temple Rodef Shalom of Falls Church, VA; the American Conference of Cantors, Chicago, IL; St. Bernadette Catholic Church of Springfield, VA; The All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) of Greater Washington; Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque of Falls Church, VA; Clarendon Presbyterian Church of Arlington, VA; Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ of Arlington, VA; Center for Spiritual Living – Metro, Arlington, VA; Temple Sinai of Washington, DC; Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation of Reston, VA; Temple Micah of Washington, DC; Adat Reyim Congregation of Fairfax, VA; Insight Meditation Community of Washington; Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, DC; Beth El Hebrew Congregation of Alexandria, VA; Charles Wesley United Methodist Church of McLean, VA; Temple Shalom of Chevy Chase, MD; Temple Emanuel of Kensington, MD; Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington; 6th and I Synagogue of Washington, DC.; and the Zemer Chai Jewish Choir of Greater Washington. In total, choir members represented 45 faith communities and organizations.

"Many people feel the future is uncertain for them. This concert is a reminder that we are united by our diversity as one nation, and made stronger by each other," said Cantor Shochet. "We sang, arm in arm, with people from all different backgrounds, and those who may feel most vulnerable due to the political landscape."

"The music, such as ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’ ‘God’s Counting on Me,’ 'We Shall Overcome’ or ‘If I had a Hammer’ was unifying and reminded us that we all share a common identity as Americans. New songs for some such as ‘Olam Chesed Yibaneh’ (We must build a world of love) or ‘Salaam Aleikum’ (led by an area Mosque children’s choir) showed the strength of our diversity, said Cantor Rhodes. “By coming together in song, we were able to heal some of our country’s wounds and move forward with a stronger sense of hope,” she said.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.