BY RON FEINBERG / WEB EDITOR //
Most concerts are about music and performers and often amount to nothing more than a few hours of songs, singing and showmanship. That’s certainly not the case with “Sacred Rights, Sacred Song.”
The Southeast regional premiere of the project, billed as a “concert of concern,” will be at Temple Sinai in Sandy Springs on Sun., March 10. Organizers describe the innovative program as a musical happening to support religious pluralism in Israel.
“It’s a musical social action experience to raise awareness,” said Nancy Seifert Gorod, the project director for the local concert. “It’s very unique, both entertaining and informative.”
“Sacred Rights, Sacred Song” is the brainchild of Fran Gordon, a Jewish communal activist and philanthropist. Gordon, who lives in Cleveland, Ohio and has a second home in Israel, came up with the idea to get Jews in America talking about both the character and the problems of the Jewish homeland.
Her concern – and the concern of many others in the Diaspora – is that Jewish law in Israel is under the control of the ultra-Orthodox, a community that represents only a small minority in the country but has the final word on all issues dealing with religious tradition and rituals.
Project supporters point out that Israel, despite being a modern democracy, is a land where Jewish women are arrested for wearing prayer shawls at the Western Wall; girls are tormented for wearing immodest dress; on certain buses, female passengers are told to sit in the rear; Conservative and Reform rabbis are barely recognized by the Israeli government; and liberal practice receives minimal state support.
One major battleground focusing on the religious rights of women has coalesced around a group, Women of the Wall, which has gathered at the Kotel each month for the past 24 years. The women argue that all they want to do is pray, but the men controlling the Wall (all members of ultra-Orthodox sects) say women are prohibited from wearing certain religious garments – prayer shawls and tefillin – and holding a Torah.
The issue has actually made its way to Israel’s Supreme Court, where the beliefs of the ultra-Orthodox were affirmed. It’s a ruling that, understandably, continues to be hotly debated in Israel and has caused somewhat of a rift between religious communities in the Jewish homeland and progressive groups in the U.S.
“It’s incredible to attend one of these services [at the Wall],” said Cindy Lewis, the rebbetzin of Congregation Etz Chaim in East Cobb who, along with her husband Rabbi Shalom Lewis, has been in Israel for the last several months. She attends Women of the Wall services as a show of support.
“All these women want to do is daven; they just want to sing and raise their voices,” she said. “The Kotel, after all, is a historical site and should be open to everyone.”
Next month’s concert will feature a choir organized by Kim Goodfriend, Arts and Culture Director of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, as well as other musicians from across metro Atlanta performing songs focusing on religious diversity and women’s rights.
“The project addresses the issue of pluralism in an artful, musical way,” Gorod said. “And it involves our own community; just one more way to learn about the Jewish state. We love Israel, and that’s why we are having this discussion.”
“Sacred Rights, Sacred Song” is a musical experience to support religious pluralism in Israel featuring original works spanning generations and genres to be held Sun., March 10, 7 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 5645 Dupree Drive NW, Sandy Spring, 30327. Ticket options include $36 for concert and post-concert reception; $18 for general admission; and $9 for students. For additional information, contact Nancy Seifert Gorod at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit sacredrightssacredsong.org.