From both sides now

A group of American yeshiva students raises funds for both Israeli and Lebanese victims.

coolooloosh 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
coolooloosh 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Three yeshiva students living in Jerusalem produced a benefit concert Monday night at Talpiot's Yellow Submarine club to raise money for both Lebanese and Israeli victims of the war. Promoted as "After The War," the program featured live music from Jewish and Arab Israeli artists Coolooloosh, Sagol 59, Samech "SAZ" Zacuth, DJ Mesh, Eden Mi'Qedem and Ilya Magnes. Styles ranged from hip-hop to Arab-Israeli folk to experimental electronica. All of the artists volunteered their services for the event and the Yellow Submarine offered the venue at a discounted rate. The eclectic music was matched in variety by the audience. The crowd included both young and old adults and, although the organizers are all yeshiva students, the audience was not exclusively religious. All three organizers are from the US. Amy Kaplan is from Michigan, Dan Sieradski is from New York and Shimshon Siegel is from Florida. Sieradski is editor-in-chief of left-wing Web sites and blogs and He also arranges the hip-hop "Corner Prophets" event in Jerusalem, where Israeli and Palestinian rappers perform together. They came together through the American yeshiva students network in Jerusalem. In the US, Kaplan used to read the Sieradski's Web site. They met when she came to Jerusalem a year ago to study at Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo, a Carlebach-tradition yeshiva, where Sieradski is also a student. Sieradski and Siegel met at a dinner at Yeshivat Bat Ayin in Nahlaot, where Siegel is currently studying. Siegel was responsible for advertising the event. He says he encountered tremendous hostility while doing so, particularly in Jerusalem's Nahlaot district. All three organizers received hate-mail, their posters were torn down and passersby tore up their flyers up in their faces. There were, however, several supportive voices. A dozen local businesses, including a local skate shop and the T'mol Shilshom coffee shop and book store, donated prizes for a raffle. In the two yeshivot, reactions were apparently mixed, Sieradski says. "Some of the rabbis were supportive, others had a certain hesitancy. One rabbi at Bat Ayin offered to attend." But with the pressure and the hostility, by the time the event came around, Sieradski claims that his "pessimism had reached its peak. The threats made me think we'd only have about 20 people." In the end, the turnout was, he says, surprising. Of the 80 people in the audience, the organizers only knew about 20 of them. Sieradski explains the surprise attendance with the observation, "we understand how sensitive people are following six years of war. There has to be some nuance, though. "People have trouble distinguishing between terrorists and all Arabs," he continues. "Recognizing the rights of Palestinians doesn't mean ushering in the mass genocide of the Jews. A lot of people talk trash, but they don't act. What have they done for Israelis in the North?" Audience members were charged a minimum entrance fee of NIS 50. The event raised NIS 4,500 and money is still coming in from friends and readers of Sieradski's Web site in the US, at a rate of approximately $100 a day. The event's producers saw this "period of peace" as an important opportunity. Kaplan explains, "There is a space that opens up after a war, during a cease-fire, for reaching out and healing." The opportunity to provide aid for civilians in both countries was also significant for the organizers. "Although people have different opinions about the conflict it is important to recognize the human in everyone." Sieradski added, "It is more valuable if we can express compassion for all victims of the conflict." At the performance, Siegel took to the stage to emphasize that money raised would not be going to Hizbullah or any militia-related organization. The trio intends to donate the Lebanese money to an international non-governmental organization doing work in the south of the country. They have been in discussion with the Joint Distribution Committee and the Union of Reform Judaism's Religious Action Committee in the US about how best to distribute the funds. On the Israeli side, the money is being donated to Table-to-Table, a charity that provides food to those in need in Israel and formed a Northern Relief Campaign during the war.