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Using Music to Bridge Cultural Divides

North­eastern music professor Joshua Jacobson brought together music from Arab and Israeli cul­tures on Sunday, con­ducting “Middle East Har­monies” at the Sanders The­atre in Cambridge.

The con­cert included group and solo per­for­mances from Zamir, a Boston-​​based orga­ni­za­tion that builds aware­ness about Jewish cul­ture through music and per­for­mance. Pro­fessor Jacobson founded the group in 1969 and is the artistic director.

At Sunday’s con­cert, Zamir per­formed choral selec­tions in both Arabic and Hebrew. They were accom­pa­nied by the Dorchester-​​based Boston City Singers youth choir and the Israeli musical group Bustan Abraham.

At one point, all of the per­formers gath­ered in a circle and chanted prayers in Hebrew and Arabic. “The level of spir­i­tu­ality was just extra­or­di­nary,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson and other speakers, including Lori Lefkovitz, Rud­erman Pro­fessor of Jewish Studies at North­eastern, also par­tic­i­pated in a sym­po­sium at Northeastern’s Fenway Center that explored how music can be used to bridge cul­tural dif­fer­ences and create mutual empathy and understanding.

“This pro­gram made audible the capacity of music to nego­tiate bor­ders in a medium that speaks through our shared humanity,” Lefkovitz said. “The metaphor of ‘har­mony’ illus­trates how people in con­flict can also be in con­ver­sa­tion, and that’s where there is reason to hope.”

Middle East Har­monies was spon­sored by the Zamir Chorale of Boston, in part­ner­ship with Northeastern’s music depart­ment, the Middle East Center for Peace, Cul­ture and Devel­op­ment, and the Con­sulate Gen­eral of Israel to New England.

– by Kara Shemin

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