Last evening several of us at JOI were priveleged to celebrate with Ayecha its first benefit concert, a Jewish Soul Celebration (press release here). Ayecha is an organization committed to recognizing the racial diversity of the Jewish community. Artists from all over the world performed, demonstrating that Jews have lived on all continents and in each place, the Jewish community has taken in bits and pieces of the surrounding culture and made it our own.
Among the many highlights of the evening (including a stirring performance by our friend Danny Maseng who sang at our own JOI conference just last week) was the absolutely amazing performance of Joshua Nelson and the Kosher Gospel Singers. For those of us who have never seen him perform, it was kind of like the church scene in the Blues Brothers movie when John Belushi’s character receives a heavenly revelation during “pastor” James Brown’s singing. For us, the realization was that there are so many different and wonderful ways we can shape Jewish prayer and music to fit who we are, and actually elevate ourselves while doing so. Once you listen to his version of some of the traditional prayers, you’ll want to shake things up the next time you attend synagogue for Friday night services. And we think that’s a good thing.
At JOI we are advocates for an inclusive Jewish community because if you open the Jewish tent wide and far, no matter your background or subgroup, you will feel welcomed and embraced. We are grateful to have an ally in that work like Ayecha.
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