The Agudas Achim and Ezrath Jewish congregations combined in 2003 to form Congregation Agudas Achim - Ezrath Israel. Temple Agudas Achim-Ezrath Israel also offers programs for men and women and holds Shabbat geared towards children and families.
What do Ukuleles have to do with the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Surprisingly, these diminutive string instruments may help to bring Jews and Arabs into a more harmonious relationship -- in their own modest way. Last week in Malden we were treated to a lovely concert by a group called, "Ukuleles For Peace" hosted by the First Lutheran Church on Waite Street. Many AA-EI members were in attendance, as well as other members of the Jewish and interfaith community. Our mayor Gary Christensen was also present.
Led by their founder Paul Moore, this group of Jewish and Muslim Arab teens from neighboring towns in the Galilee (Hod Hasharon and Tira) performed a wonderful selection of music with enthusiasm and joy to kick off their tour of America. The founder Paul explained in a brief introduction that the group was founded some years ago as his way to give something back -- in gratitude for the Ukulele having helped him quit smoking and so "saving his life." Paul decided that bringing together Jewish and Arab children who lived in neighboring towns would be a powerful grass-roots approach to peacemaking -- one young ukulele player at a time. Over the years, the groups have bonded, and brought their parents and communities together. Paul said that we have to take peacemaking into our own hands, as "We can't trust the politicians." This elicited a strong response from the audience, and a laugh and good-natured smile from Mayor Christenson, who was standing in the back. After the laughter, Paul apologized, "Sorry, Mr. Mayor!"
The group was brought to Malden by Pastor Rachel Manke of the First Lutheran Church. She is an accomplished ukulele player and singer herself, and heard about the group through her musical connections. She performed last week with Garrison Keillor at Tanglewood in the Prairie Home Companion program. (You can listen to her performance online at this link: http://rachelmanke.weebly.com/happenings.) Upon their arrival in Malden, the group was provided with a delicious light kosher lunch catered by our own Marilyn Masters and the kitchen committee of AA-EI. Many thanks to the women of AA-EI for providing that hospitality and extending our support to this fine group.
The group played a number of instruments, in addition to the ukulele, including fiddle, drums, bass and blow-organ. Their styles ranged from American pop and folk, (Elvis, Pete Seeger, Beetles,) to Israeli and Jewish peace songs, and traditional Irish numbers. The group will tour the Northeast then make their way to Hawaii for the Ukulele festival, the Ukulele being one of the key instruments in Hawaiian musical culture.
The message of Ukuleles for Peace is that we should never lose hope that people can set aside their differences and forge a path toward reconciliation and peace. Before Ukuleles for peace was founded, there were virtually no ties between the neighboring Jewish and Arab towns. Now the residents know one another and meet regularly to engage in projects -- such as planting fruit trees together.
The lesson is clear: We must cast off preconceived and inherited notions about our neighbors and meet one another with trust in our common humanity and shared values. Despite all the terrible strife and violence around us, we must not despair or give up. Only if we personally take the initiative and reach out to our neighbors -- near and far, will we one day "Lay down our sword and shield by the riverside" and each will sit by his vine or her fig tree - and none shall make us afraid.
Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and healthy summer.
Rabbi David Kudan
Holiday services will be conducted by Rabbi David Kudan, accompanied by Sexton Wayne Freedman and Cantorial Soloist Phyllis Werlin, as well as lay leaders of the Congregation. Click Services for further information on our regular services and our special holiday services.
Agudas Achim - Ezrath Israel 245 Bryant Street Malden, MA 02148