The music of Passover and the Civil
THE STORY OF OUR MUSIC
When I was a little girl my parents were housing
testers. We lived in suburban NJ and our community was struggling
with the civil rights issues that defined the times. When a black
family tried to purchase a home in our neighborhood and was told
that the home was no longer on the market, my parents, who are
white, would approach the sellers and ask if the home was still
available. If the answer was yes, the sellers racism was
exposed and they were forced to accept the black familys
In 1962, at the age of two, I lived in New Orleans (LA). My parents,
white Jewish Northerners, were appalled by the segregation they
found in the South and determined to protest it every day in small
ways. For example, when I was thirsty they made of point of having
me a small, blonde, blue eyed girl in her pixie dress
drink from the COLORED ONLY water fountains. My awareness
of the differences between whites and blacks in this country began
I also learned that sometimes the smallest action can lead to
In 1996 I was invited to provide the music for the Anti-Defamation
Leagues Black-Jewish Seder in Boston. This event was the brainchild
of my friend and colleague Lenny Zakim, then Executive Director
of the ADL. Lenny understood that talk is cheap that relationship
building happens more easily over a meal than at a meeting and that
the best, perhaps only way to bridge the enormous gaps between Blacks
and Jews in to bring them together around shared values . . . and
food. The Black-Jewish Seder began as a small gathering of friends
in a private home. Twenty years later we are a community of close
to 1000 gathering annually to share music, food and the spirit of
a Passover seder.
In 1997 I met LeRoix Hampton, Minister of Music at New Covenant
Christian Church in Mattapan (MA) when his youth choir, Power Praise,
was asked to contribute music for the Seder. LeRoix located, arranged
and taught his choir a well-known Jewish folk song, Dodi Li, complete
with perfect Hebrew pronunciation. The result was extraordinary
Jewish and Black audience members alike jumped to their feet
to applaud and sing with the choir. They were a hit!
Following the success of the Seder I asked LeRoix and his talented
young people to work with me to use music as a force for change.
We invited a group of young Jewish singers to join the young people
form LeRoixs church and together we began to learn and share
the freedom music of the Civil Rights Movement and Passover. It
was our hope that the music would be the first step on the path
towards mutual understanding and friendship. This album is the fruit
of those labors.
Lenny Zakim died at the age of 46 after a courageous battle against
cancer. Before his death he reminded me that I had an obligation
not only to carry on his important work, but to rededicate myself
to working for tikkun olam, the repair of the world.
Lenny I wish that you could be here to witness these beautiful
ripples which your pebbles have created. This project is dedicated
to you and to all that you worked for.
We will carry on.