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Discover, Watch, Listen: music and Standing Together

Harvey Mason Jr. at The Grammys

This past Sunday the Grammy Awards aired, celebrating music and musicians and recognizing exemplary achievements in the music industry. Besides the Tony Awards (which I religiously watch in its entirety), the Grammys are the only other award show I tune into for just the live performances. Highlights from Sunday night included Joni Mitchell performing “Both Sides, Now” and Billy Joel performing his first music release in 17 years. But beyond the performances, there was one more notable moment…

Imagine my surprise when the CEO of the Recording Academy, Harvey Mason Jr., offered the following remarks midway through the televised show:

Good evening everyone. It’s an incredible privilege to lead this Recording Academy, an organization that celebrates music, but more importantly serves music and all the people who make it every day of the year. Tonight is a truly global event – we began the show with an artist who grew up in Kosovo and in London – the amazing Dua Lipa. The next performance will be a first on the Grammy stage: we’ll see the Superstar from Nigeria, Burna Boy. And earlier we presented Grammys to winners from around the world, all the while guided through this evening by our fantastic South African host. 

Tonight we celebrate the world of music. Every one of us – no matter where we’re from –  is united by the shared experience of music. It brings us together like nothing else can, and that’s why music must always be our safe space. When that’s violated, it strikes at the very core of who we are. We felt that at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. We felt that at the Manchester Arena in England. We felt that at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas. 

And, on October 7th we felt that again when we heard the tragic news from the Supernova Music Festival for Love that over 360 music fans lost their lives and another 40 were kidnapped. That day, and all the tragic days that have followed, have been awful for the world to bear as we mourn the loss of all innocent lives.

We live in a world divided by so much, and maybe music can’t solve everything but let us all agree music must remain the common ground upon which we all stand, together in peace and harmony. Because music has always been one of humanity’s greatest connectors. Think about it: every song that we’re honoring or hearing tonight moved someone, no matter where they were from or what they believed. It connected them to others who were moved in the same way. 

Take the string quartet: as individuals, they sound really good but together they achieve something beautiful they could never do apart. These musicians of Palestinian, Israeli, and Arab descent are here, playing together. Now is the time for us, for humanity, to play together –  to come together, with empathy and with love. Thank you.

— Harvey Mason Jr., CEO Recording Academy

I was moved to tears that Mason Jr. would highlight the massacre and abduction of Israelis on October 7. If you read the various comments online and on social media you will see much disappointment that he did not explicitly say the words “Israel” or “Jews.” And while that is technically true, I still thank him. Perhaps he was trying to appeal to as many viewers as possible and perceived that such words would turn people off of his message and miss the sweet moment when the camera panned to the string quartet. Some may disagree with me, but I was not bothered by these omissions. The fact that the Recording Academy CEO stood up and spoke about the atrocities that occurred at the music festival was beautiful. But more than that: it was important and served to teach us all a lesson. Mass shootings may happen at concerts and other musical gatherings, but the music of humanity must never die. In Israel, here are two examples of that promise:

Standing Together

Last week, over 1000 Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel gathered in Haifa for the annual convention of Standing Together. The convention showcased the Jerusalem Youth Choir, an Israeli-Palestinian choir that sings in both Arabic and Hebrew, as well as Luna Abu Nassar, a local Palestinian singer. Small groups discussed topics like 

  • How to end the war and advance peace
  • Between the streets and the Knesset – How can the purple political stream change the current situation
  • How to build the part for equitable citizenship
  • Economy for all: how to transition from disaster to a fair society

Importantly, at this convention they voted in their new national leadership team, comprised of 13 women, 12 men, 13 Jewish Israelis, and 12 Palestinian Israelis. Here are all of their photos:

As someone very interested in the ongoing work of Standing Together, I applaud this new leadership team and look forward to what is to come in 2024. If you are looking for ways to get involved with this organization, consider becoming a Friend of Standing Together (there is a cost to this) and/or joining the ‘Standing Together on Social Media’ WhatsApp group (it’s free).

From Rabbi Ilyse Glickman:

This is our ongoing blog series to introduce the DJC community to podcasts, books, websites, and other media offerings that may expand our understandings of the current war in particular and Israel/Palestine more broadly. I hope you listen/watch/read these recommendations with curiosity, openness, and empathy. Please let me know what you think about today’s offerings: rabbiglickman@djctoronto.com. I look forward to the conversation.

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