A new project aims to unite Jews in the South African Jewish community and around the world through singing.
The unique initiative was created by South African Jewish vocalist and entertainer Jonathan Birin and produced with the help of Rabbi Yossi Chaikin, the chairman of the South African Rabbinical Association.
Titled "Forty South African Rabbanim and Chazzanim join to sing Avinu Malkenu," the project included creating a video that showed 40 of South Africa's rabbis and chazanim come together to sing the Jewish prayer of "Avinu Malkeinu."
Birin explained that Shuls and synagogues have been closed for almost five months, and while there have been plenty of Zoom events organized by the local Jewish community, he "felt there was a need to show the community that even though we are physically apart, we are all in this together and we are all there for each other, and the rabbis and cantors are still part of our special community.”
And so, the project was underway. Birin and Rabbi Chaikin began by sending out emails, asking for volunteers who might like to be involved in the video, which would bring “a message of unity and hope for our community," Rabbi Chaikin wrote.
And the responses were great. “We got an amazing response from rabbis who could sing, and rabbis who couldn’t sing — but that didn’t matter,” Birin said. “They felt the need to send out a message of love and blessing through song.
Each rabbi an chazan received a sample video and were asked to record themselves singing their part accordingly. Then, all 40 videos were sent to Birin, who "did a little tuning, and mixing and then assembled the video,” Birin said.
The video has gone viral since being published, and Birin said the responses were overwhelmingly positive.
“I received a phone call from a friend who saw it; she was crying. She said the video gave her such a sense of belonging and joy.
“One thing I have learned from my travels is that wherever we are in this world, we all end up singing this version of Avinu Malkenu. Even though we are apart, we are definitely still as one,” Birin concluded.
Avinu Malkeinu is a prayer that's usually recited during Jewish services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and on the Ten Days of Repentance between them. Each line of the prayer begins with the words "Avinu Malkeinu" which translate as "Our Father, Our King."