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Crossing Religious Space

P1020157 P1020150 P1020115 P1020049Greetings from Berlin!  It is past midnight here, and I am totally jet-lagged, and awake despite the six hours total of the past thirty-six hours I have slept.  Hopefully after a short update I’ll be on my way to adjusting to German sleep-time…

Zamir was privileged to sing a pre-opening concert at the St. Lukas-Kirsche (St. Luke’s Church) in Berlin this evening.  The audience was receptive and warm, happy to see us, and so, despite having been barely awake and having traveled 6,000 km, we felt pretty great about our performance.

Singing in churches presents a dilemma for us.  We sing “in service of God”: many of the pieces we sing are not just music – they are prayer to our God.  How do we reconcile this with singing in another’s religious space?  This is as much about respecting their beliefs as protecting our own.  Furthermore, today, we couldn’t rationalize that it was “decontextualized liturgical singing” if we wanted to — we ritually lit Chanukkah candles for the third night of our holiday during the concert.

I don’t speak for anyone except myself.  It’s hard to cross boundaries of religious space.  Even in a world where we routinely talk about the unity of one monotheistic God under many names — “Adonai,” “Jesus,” “Allah” — the truth is, we do have separate beliefs.  Yet the ability to represent ourselves and our message so positively and the gift of the warm welcome we received from the pastor and community at the church in which we performed are what bring us into a more peaceful future.  We unveil our rituals, we really do engage in pirsumé nisa (publicizing the miracle) as we respectfully light candles in observance of our holiday with our neighbors.  In turn, we recognize the thoughtful way they’ve beautified their space for the holiday they are about to observe.  I celebrate that in a world filled with business and existentialism people still find time to stay committed to the rituals, the music, the community that their religion holds sacred, and I celebrate that we live in a world where we can celebrate each other.  I thank the Louis Lewandowski Festival for giving us this opportunity.

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