Fundraising Urgent for Jerusalem Orchestra’s SE Tour
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Fundraising Urgent for Jerusalem Orchestra’s SE Tour

The Israeli Consulate in Atlanta is leading efforts to collect $300,000 for a series of Israel at 70 concerts.

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra will make a two-week tour of the Southeast to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday, but only if the Israeli Consulate can raise $300,000.

At least two-thirds of that total is needed before the end of February, or the tour, two years in the planning, will be canceled, said Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, the consul general to the Southeast.

Now that the Foreign Affairs Ministry is considering closing the Atlanta consulate, the fundraising drive is all the more urgent, Shorer said in an interview in her Midtown office.

“If people get together and decide to donate so we will have a fantastic evening which can be televised and videotaped and be sent home to show what a force there is in the South, what can be done here, I think the entire atmosphere can be changed,” Shorer said.

She said she booked the orchestra two years ago to celebrate Israel’s 70th without guns or uniforms, but with music, which “has no boundaries, has no religion. Music is international.”

But fulfilling her dream has been tough. The logistics involve moving 75 musicians and their instruments, along with five people who accompany them, to and through the consulate’s seven-state region with buses, food and hotels, arranging visas with work permits, booking arenas, coordinating choirs for performances, and working with multiple Jewish Federations.

“I don’t think that anyone was thinking big, and maybe people didn’t think it was doable,” she said about the lack of competition to book the orchestra. “I still don’t know whether it’s doable. I just pray.”

The plan is for the tour to run from April 10 to 23. Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, begins the evening of April 18. The orchestra’s program will include American, Israeli and international music.

The orchestra will first perform in Charleston, S.C., with the Charleston Men’s Chorus, then do a matinee at Kennesaw State University and a performance in Knoxville, Tenn.

The orchestra will return to Atlanta for the highlight event of the tour: a concert at the Woodruff Arts Center with the 200-member choir of the First Baptist Church, followed by the official Israeli government Yom HaAtzmaut reception.

The tour also includes Memphis, St. Louis and possibly Louisville, Shorer said.

In each location, the Jewish Federation will hold a reception to celebrate Israeli independence. Shorer said she’d like to see concert tickets priced at $70 because it’s Israel’s 70th birthday, but the local Federation and the concert venue will determine the ticket policies. Any ticket revenue will go to Federation.

But none of that will happen if donations don’t pick up.

“People heard about it and were very, very, very enthusiastic. ‘Wow. It’s coming to the South. It’s a celebration of Independence Day.’ It was received fantastically,” Shorer said. “But the second reaction has to do with the financial support. It’s much slower.”

Cutting back the tour to lower the fundraising requirement isn’t an option, she said. It’s all or nothing.

“It’s a big, big event,” she said. “I beg people to help us so we can make it and not be stuck in the middle.”

People who want to support the tour should send donations to the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, not the consulate, Shorer said. Just indicate on the check that the money is for the orchestra’s celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday.

She’s also soliciting donations from evangelical Christians.

“I think the Southeast of the United States should prove that with the evangelical community, which is huge, with Jerusalem declared officially by the president of the United States the capital of Israel, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to prove that the South can do it,” Shorer said. “It’s the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.”

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