Singing For Hope

Rabbis David Paskin and Menachem Creditor have been singing together for a number of years, in addition to their growing civic involvement in their communities – which led to the sting that many people had the day after the election last month.

“We really sensed in our communities, our Facebook communities and our own Jewish world that a lot of people were struggling; not just with the outcome but the process,” Paskin said. “We knew we could stand together and stand up for the values that continue to be important to us.”

In short order, the two combined to put together an album that is an all-star compilation of Jewish musicians called “There Is Hope: A Musical Anthology For The Spirit.” The 26-song collection is available as a free download or can be listened to on the Bandcamp website. Creditor said it has more than 1,000 downloads and over 9,000 listens since it dropped on Nov. 18.

“The original idea started with Menachem and this came together in a matter of a week-and-a-half,” Paskin said. “We put the call out and people really responded. They wanted to share their music.”

Said Creditor: “The election was a real shock to the system. Most prevalent feeling I had was a sudden lessening of hope. There is enough work to do in the world we can’t afford to lose enthusiasm and faith in the future. Thank God for music and friends. I’ve had a brotherhood with David for more than a decade. He has incredible creative energy. I pitched the concept, he put together the mechanism. The response was tremendous.”

Contributing artists in the project are : Marsha Attie, Stacy Beyer, Joanie Calem, Neshama Carlebach, Jennie Chabon, Creditor, Steve Dropkin, Maya Elise, Adam Feder, Josh Goldberg, Sue Horowitz, Billy Kaplan, Larry Karol, Naomi Less, Chava Mirel, Dan Nichols, Paskin, Pizmon, Juval Porat, Rick Recht, Chana Rothman, Melita Silberstein, Julie Silver, Peri Smilow, and Craig Taubman.

“Certainly in the liberal Jewish world, hallmark of really powerful prayer, moving spiritual experiences, is rooted in Jewish music,” said Paskin, who was Rosh Shirim (head of song) at Herzl Camp in the mid-1980. “If we go back to Debbie Friedman, those are the songs that we coalesced around. Now we have dozens and dozens of Jewish musicians building around that. Building moments of hope, spirituality and connection. These are the hallmarks of real Jewish spirituality.”

The release of the songs has launched one notable tzedakah initiative. The last song on the CD is a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Olam Chesed Yibaneh”; in the wake of the election, Jeff Ward, a friend of Rabbi Rachel Kobrin (herself, a friend of Rabbis Creditor and Paskin), remembered the song.

“I was walking along the river in Philadelphia, and I remembered the song, so I Googled it and listened to Rabbi Creditor’s recording of it,” Ward said. “I didn’t realize that it was written by a real person. I thought ‘wow, it would be great to hear my musician friends play this song. It would make me feel there is hope in a confusing moment.'”

Ward came up with a challenge: For every recording of the song posted on YouTube, he’ll make a $180 donation to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU or NAACP. The challenge goes until Dec. 24 or 100 versions are posted. (If you choose to take part, tag Jeff and Rabbi Creditor and use the hashtag #BuildFromLove.

“That was two days after the election, so it was a hard, hard day,” Ward said. “And love seemed like the only answer that could be agreed by everyone.”

Creditor hopes the challenge, and the album can be helpful in this time.

“Can we generate a soundtrack that feels like our souls feel? That is powerful, pulsing, hopeful?” he said. “I think we need to remember that we aren’t helpless and we certainly aren’t hopeless. The gravest sin is despair. The outcome, I hope, is that we build on the hope that will be necessary from the work.”