By Naomi Adler
The City of Philadelphia has always maintained a strong connection to the state of Israel, one that in recent years has only grown closer and more productive, in large part due to the commitment, compassion and collaboration of our local communities.
That bond grew even stronger earlier last month with the announcement of a tour — the result of a partnership between the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Orchestra — that will bring the orchestra to Israel for a series of concerts in the holy land in celebration of Israel’s 70th year.
Through an immersive exploration of music, food, history and Israeli modern-day life, this tour will be an extraordinary feat of cultural diplomacy, one that promises to shape our local communities for many years to come. The tour is truly history in the making: The Philadelphia Orchestra will be the only North American orchestra to visit the region in celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary, and only the third group to visit in U.S. history.
Spending their days delving into every facet of Israeli life, the musicians will meet with nonprofit organizations, engage with both Arab and Israeli youth, and interact with street performers. They will travel the country from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Sdot Negev, a region near Gaza with whom the Jewish Federation has shared a 20-year partnership in the fields of security, culture, pluralism and Jewish identity. Our accompanying patron tour will bring an audience every step of the way, and live broadcasts will ensure that the rest of the world shares in the experience.
The Jewish Federation leads dozens of missions each year, and I have seen firsthand the awe and wonder on the faces of politicians, business leaders, interfaith clergy members, artists and human rights advocates when they walk the fabled streets of the Old City in Jerusalem or tour the high-tech ports in Tel Aviv. I have witnessed passionate and emotional exchanges when we sit down with both Arab and Israeli advocates working to bring peace to the region, or when we watch local educators working tirelessly to train a new generation of leaders for peace and understanding.
But what perhaps inspires me most is the reinvigorated empathy and drive to action with which participants return. I’ve been proud to see trips inspire robust new business-to-business partnerships and community outreach programs. I’ve watched advocates and cultural leaders continue their work with a more comprehensive outlook on Middle East peace and security. Our interfaith community continues to strengthen and has increasingly acted as one in the face of bigotry and hatred.
And, of course, there’s a renewed hunger for authentic hummus and falafel, fulfilled by renowned James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov, who will lead the closing segment on this tour.
Israel has been a priority for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia since even before the nation’s existence, and this tour is just one facet of a robust year of local programming and events — called Israel70 — that celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary throughout the Philadelphia region. The goal of the Jewish Federation is to build bridges between Greater Philadelphia and Israel, but also between our communities and one another. By communicating and connecting through music, The Philadelphia Orchestra will further join our communities together in a new harmony. I cannot wait to see how we continue to flourish.
Naomi Adler is the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.