MLK Day Unity Concert Brings Warmth Despite Icy Weather

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Members of Temple Beth El, an African-American synagogue in West Oak Lane, and Darkaynu, an egalitarian minyan, came together to participate in a unity concert.

Icy road conditions on Sunday didn’t stop more than 100 people from attending a Crossing the Bridge Together unity concert hosted by Temple Beth El, an African- American synagogue in West Oak Lane, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day.

The event, co-sponsored with Darkaynu, an egalitarian minyan in Warrington, Pa., was intended to bring the two communities together and help raise funds for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, according to Darkaynu’s Rabbi Jon Cutler.


“The theme was the unity beyond race in the sense that African-American Jews and white Jews can join together in concert in honoring Martin Luther King,” Cutler said, noting that the concert’s title was a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Selma March in Montgomery, Ala. “There are no racial boundaries, we are, all together, Jews.”

Though the two congregations have collaborated often in the past, Cutler said, the concert marked the first time they have cooperated in putting together “a specific, non-religious service.”

Lynn Edelman, director of corporate and public communications for the Federation, spoke at the event that she referred to as “an amazing experience.” She  said she mainly explained the Federation’s community work.

During the event, Temple Beth El’s choir, called Kosher Soul, played a medley of Psalm 98 as well as “Hine Ma Tov,” and Darkaynu’s “eclectic” musical group offered renditions of “Misheberach” and “Adon Olam.”

Cutler said they were still trying to determine the amount of funds raised at the concert. But he lauded those who showed at the event, in spite of the poor weather.

“For people to brave” the icy roads “is amazing,” Cutler said. “My purpose of pulling this whole thing together was really to expose the African-American Jewish community to the white Jewish community and vice versa.”

He added that there is an encore event being planned for the spring due to the concert’s success and the fact that many people were unable to attend.

Rabbi Deborah Bowen, the spiritual leader of Temple Beth El, called the event both "a wonderful occasion" and “a celebration of life,” and said she shared in Cutler’s enthusiasm for the strong attendance.

“We persevered and those who managed to come were blessed, and those who did not come are jealous this morning,” Bowen said, adding that she and her husband had to find a way around a gate outside their house that had frozen stuck in order to make the event. “It was an indication that people want unity, and they want to experience the kind of thing that we offered them yesterday.”

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