SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The Pursuit of Harmony helped create beautiful music and build bridges of understanding over the weekend of Dec. 15 at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, the Reform synagogue in South Orange. The musical duo of Jewish-American singer and songwriter Michael Ochs and award-winning Palestinian peace activist and songwriter Alaa Alshaham performed at the Friday evening multi-generational service. Adding to the light on Friday evening, TSTI congregants were joined by members of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, which brings together Jewish and Muslim women to create relationships that build bridges and fight hate and prejudice. Several TSTI members are members of the Essex County Chapter 1 of SOSS.
The Pursuit of Harmony also performed a Saturday evening concert at TSTI, which was attended by members of all three South Orange synagogues. That event celebrated the synagogue volunteers who are involved in the refugee resettlement project in South Orange, and was also attended by Syrian family members who had been helped. As part of their weekend residency at TSTI, the duo led workshops on Sunday morning for religious school students that focused on finding understanding and celebrating similarities with others who appear to be different at the outset.
Ochs and Alshaham are committed to delivering the message of building bridges through music and understanding, and creating meaningful contact between Jewish Americans and Palestinian Muslims. They are traveling for the first time with a journalist from the West Bank, who is writing about their work in South Orange as well as about endeavors to promote understanding of the stranger through the universal language of music.
Photos Courtesy of TSTI