THE ANNUAL European Jewish Choral Festival that was inaugurated in London in 2012 brings together the best Jewish choirs from all over Europe and Israel. This year, the festival was held in St. Petersburg with the participation of 28 choristers from Jerusalem’s Ramatayim Men’s Choir directed by Richard Shavei-Tzion and accompanied on the piano by Aviva Stanislawski.The choir, which is now back in Jerusalem, performed before thousands of concertgoers. Some of the highlights included: appearances at the magnificent State Capella Music House and the renowned Mariinsky concert hall to sell-out audiences; leading Shabbat services and a Sunday concert at a packed Great Choral Synagogue; leading a Friday night Carlebach minyan with the participation of hundreds of European choristers. The choir also collaborated with London tenor Robert Brody, whose brother Michael is a Ramatayim chorister.THE LATE Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who refrained from sitting in judgment on fellow Jews regardless of the stream of Judaism with which they identified – if at all – believed that music was a unifying factor. Indeed, his melodies are heard in synagogues around the world as well as on Jewish radio stations. They are also heard on radio stations in Israel. At Carlebach memorial concerts, one can see Jews of every stripe from ultra-Orthodox to completely secular.A similar but somewhat smaller audience shows up at 9:30 on Wednesday nights at the Ba’al Hatanya synagogue in Mea She’arim, where Aharon Reinitz gives a lesson in hassidic music. Strangely enough, there are also members of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian sect at these lessons, even though historically Lithuanians and hassidim are at odds with each other. There are also Sephardim and secular men in attendance.Each lesson involves the teaching of two melodies, along with their history and any anecdotes related to them. The melodies are played by a clarinetist and a violinist and are then sung by everyone present in a spirit of camaraderie. The concept was started by Rabbi Mendy Hanun, a Chabad Hassid, who teaches hassidic philosophy and who was always enamored with Chabad melodies, as well as those of other hassidic movements. Despite the popularity of the music lessons, not everyone in Mea She’arim welcomes the Chabad presence, which has been there for decades. Two months ago, the synagogue was vandalized.MINISTERS AND Knesset members will participate in the third Katif Conference, marking the 12th anniversary of the evacuation from of Gush Katif and uprooting of communities under the administration of prime minister Ariel Sharon. The all-day conference will be held on July 25 at the Ulpana campus at Bnei Dekalim. Among the ministers listed as speakers are Zev Elkin, Uri Ariel and Ayelet Shaked.Morning sessions will be devoted to topics related to national responsibility and afternoon sessions to “Listening to Different Voices.” This will include a panel on Diaspora Jewry, in which one of the speakers will be Deputy Minister Michael Oren, who was born and raised in America, came to Israel as a lone soldier and is an immediate past Israel ambassador to the United States.THE FIRST Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897.To celebrate its 120th anniversary, Zionist Boulevard was inaugurated last week in Gush Etzion, with the participation of Yaakov Hagoel, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization; head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council Shlomo Ne’eman; Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover who are among the founders of Women in Green; Israel Harel, founder of the Institute for Religious Zionism; and members of the Frenkel, Shaer and Yifrach families whose teenage yeshiva student sons Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal were kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in June 2014. The tragedy that brought the three families together has kept them in frequent contact with each other.This week, in another celebration of the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and various Knesset committees hosted senior executive members of the World Zionist Organization and held special sessions to mark the occasion.