The New Jersey-Israel Commission held a musical production of "Symphony of Brotherhood" - created by Grammy Award-winning violinist and producer Miri Ben-Ari and gospel performer Derrick Starks - to celebrate the friendship between the Black, Jewish and Christian communities, in the commission's first-ever event in honor of Black History Month this week.
The concert was attended by New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Deputy Consul General Israel Nitzan of the Consulate General of Israel in New York, as well as clergy members of the Church of God in Christ, including Bishop of Israel Glen Plummer, New Jersey Third Jurisdiction Bishop Kevin E. Knight, Sr., Prelate of the New Jersey First Jurisdiction Bishop Martin L. Johnson and Senior Pastor of Wells Cathedral Rev. James N. Williams.
Concert fuses gospel and Israeli music
“I am a firm believer that we are stronger together when we can walk in one another’s shoes and this event achieved that with grace, beauty and a spirit of unity.”New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way
The concert, which fused spiritual gospel songs and Israeli melodies, included performances by Melonie Daniels and Dr. Pauline Plummer, founder of Covenant Daughters International.
“I am truly proud to lead my department, as a Black woman in the Murphy Administration, which includes the portfolio of the New Jersey-Israel Commission and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission,” said Way. “I am a firm believer that we are stronger together when we can walk in one another’s shoes and this event achieved that with grace, beauty and a spirit of unity.”
"I want to thank the New Jersey-Israel Commission for their commitment to honoring our past through the celebration and the unification of our Black, Jewish, Israeli and Christian brothers and sisters as we celebrated through music and solidarity at the Symphony of Brotherhood concert in Newark at Wells Cathedral," said Baraka. “This event exemplified their commitment to our shared future which will truly be defined by how we come together and support one another during our most difficult times."
“It is so special to have songs like Oh Freedom! and Eretz Zavat Chalav U’dvash in the same concert. As a member of the New Jersey-Israel Commission, I am grateful for this opportunity to build bridges between our communities and keep the conversation focused on love and friendship,” said Ben-Ari, who is a member of the New Jersey-Israel Commission. “I look forward to future events like this and to making a continuous positive social impact.”
“As antisemitism is growing at an alarming rate globally, it is vitally important that the Jewish community worldwide, and Israelis in particular, understand that the greatest majority of Black Americans stand with them – especially the Black Church, said Plummer. “Despite a heightened state of threat to the Jewish community, it was important for me to convene from Jerusalem, a gathering of Black church leaders in New Jersey, for what I called, A Weekend to Bless Israel, which culminated in a true Symphony of Brotherhood!”
“The Symphony of Brotherhood was an amazing and historic event celebrating Black History. Miri Ben-Ari, Derrick Starks, and the Symphony of Brotherhood Choir and dancers drove home the focus of the evening: unity in the communities,” said Knight. “The universal language of music is a powerful catalyst that breaks down barriers and causes oneness between all races. I pray such was the case in all who attended.”
“Miri Ben-Ari’s music speaks to the very core of how music builds bridges and a spirit of connectedness at time we need it most,” said New Jersey-Israel Commission co-chairs Karin Elkis and Mark S. Levenson. “We applaud Miri, Derrick Starks, and the entire Church of God in Christ leadership for their dedication in bringing honor to such an important and groundbreaking evening.”
“Music will always remain a common denominator uniting people across this state and across the world,” said New Jersey-Israel Commission Executive Director Andrew H. Gross. “From the first moment of this initiative the Church of God in Christ welcomed our office with open arms and stands as a testament to the common future we must continue to build together.”