DIASPORA WORLD JEWISH CULTURE FESTIVAL

The world is shrinking. Boundaries are crossed by millions daily. New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Moscow, Beijing.....and yet for all the mingling we seem to have a lot of trouble tolerating differences when they threaten our identities. I am not a scholar of politics nor sociology but a musician who has had the good fortune to mingle and perform with artists of many different faiths and cultures.I was born in Casablanca of Judeo-Spanish heritage on my mother’s side and Judeo-Arabic on my father’s.  My family was also deeply influenced by French culture (Morocco was a French protectorate from 1911 to 1956) and by Argentinean culture, my great grandfather having immigrated to Buenos Aires in the early 1920s. So my personal history has provided the springboard for my collaborations over the years with  musicians from all over the world.  For a long time these collaborations occurred spontaneously and without much conscious thought. The important thing was the person’s musical talent and their chemistry with me and other band members. But a certain politicization of my work began to creep in, not so much because of what I did to promote this interfaith and intercultural musical dialogue but because of people’s reactions to it. Sometimes conservative presenters would feel uneasy about the mix of Arabs, Jews, Christians etc..on stage making music together. Sometimes an ardent follower of a particular faith would take offense at some of the more liturgical pieces we presented within a ‘three faiths’ cultural context, specifically using Spain’s Golden Age as a template. Some rudely interrupted these pieces by calling out in the middle of a performance that this material belonged in a Mosque or Synagogue. The first time this happened it was shocking as my intent was always to honor the best things about each culture and highlighting the similarities rather than the differences.So I want to ask a lot of questions and to request your participation and involvement in creating a dialogue that will hopefully enable us to find different and creative ways of looking at tolerance, or should we rename it as acceptance or appreciation! Tolerance seems to imply a forbearing rather than acceptance of the other. How do we find ways to build bridges between individuals and communities? How do we break down the boundaries that exist to keep us in and the other out. How do we find ways to understand rather than judge? I wrestle with all of these questions at every moment. I am very proud of my Sephardic Jewish Heritage for it has provided a great strength and feeling of continuity between myself and my ancestors. I have spent a good part of my performing career keeping this oral tradition alive by researching songs and reinterpreting them with a contemporary sensibility. I have also delved into the oral traditions of other cultures and have often found almost identical stories, texts and themes that make me realize again and again that we all fundamentally march to the same drummer.So, one of the more pressing questions that I am always trying to answer for myself is: “Do I delve more deeply into my religious and cultural tradition in order to give it more meaning and substance or do I let the tradition, music in my case, speak for itself?” My temperament and upbringing tend to favor the latter. This leads to a second question: “Is it possible or desirable to deconstruct or reinterpret more orthodox bound structures that allegedly exist to keep these traditions alive and invigorate them with a more inclusive and less politically or socially driven agenda?” Opportunities certainly abound everywhere around us. The challenge is great and can often reflect our personal limitations in dealing with them. But how else do we evolve personally and as a global community?