Louisville Orchestra’s ‘Journeys of Faith’ builds bridges between Louisville’s Jewish and Black communities

The imperative is clear: Build, nurture and expand relationships between Jewish and Black community groups. So goes the mission of the Louisville Orchestra’s “Journeys of Faith” series, which marks its second year with a performance March 11 at the Kentucky Center.

The 7:30 p.m. Whitney Hall concert will include Atlanta-based composer Joel Thompson’s “To Awaken the Sleeper” – employing narrated texts by James Baldwin – and Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, titled “The Age of Anxiety.”

“Journeys of Faith” is a four-year initiative embracing Black and Jewish music. In this latest component, several synagogues and historically Black churches in Louisville will partner over coming weeks.

Participants will study fundamental religious texts—juxtaposed with Baldwin’s writings and Bernstein’s music—in their respective places of worship. The orchestra will be sending ensembles to those sacred spaces for select studies to aid those involved. The project will culminate when those involved attend the March 11 concert as guests of the orchestra and share in a participants-only discussion immediately afterward with Abrams, and other panelists.

Pastor Corrie Shull of Burnette Avenue Baptist Church and Rabbi Ben Freed of Keneseth Israel are the first partners in the pairing.

“Establishing connections across race, religion and culture is one of the most powerful things that we can do to bring about the Beloved Community,” Shull says. Such collaborations, he believes, have the potential to “strengthen understanding between communities, and thereby pave a path forward toward a brighter more inclusive future”

Freed agrees about the power of partnership.

“I’m tremendously excited about the prospect of using music to build bridges between our communities,” he says. “Through study and examination of our sacred texts, the wisdom of our ancestors, and the stories of our own lives, I believe we’ll find a greater appreciation for the music and for each other.”

Additional initiative participants include Pastor Wanda Mitchell Smith from First Gethsemene and Cantor David Lipp from Adath Jeshurun; Pastor Vincent James from Elam Baptist Church and Cantor Lauren Adesnik from The Temple; plus Dr. Steven Kelsey from New Life Ministries and Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner from Temple Shalom.

Recently, clergy members met with leaders from the Louisville Orchestra and the Jewish Community Relations Council to develop programming and determine next steps. Each of the pairs will gather during the first weeks of February to begin this essential work of bridge-building and collaborative study. Each church and synagogue will include lay participants in this important project. If you’d like to know more, contact the Jewish Community Relations Council at mgolden@jewishlouisville.org.

(L-R: Rabbi Ben Freed, Pastor Corrie Shull, Louisville Orchestra’s Sarah Lempke O’Hare, Louisville Orchestra’s Nathaniel Koch, Community Editor Andrew Adler, Jewish Federation of Louisville’s Tricia Seigwald, Louisville Orchestra CEO Graham Parker)

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