Activists often turn to protests to change the social structure of a country, but Baltimore Hebrew Congregation has found another avenue to peace: a concert.
The concert will feature Jewish singer, Baltimorean Sarah Baumgarten, accompanied by pianist Joseph Krupa. She is excited to share the stage with Jocelyn Taylor, a lyric soprano who works in Baltimore County, accompanied by pianist Bryan Alston. The concert will be stuffed with thought-provoking but fun hits like “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” and “For Good” from “Wicked.”
Organizer Sidney Bravmann hopes that the concert will promote harmony.
“Jewish people, Black people, people in general need to work together so that we can achieve goals of harmony and health,” he said. “It’s about tikkun olam, repair the world. Hopefully through music, the connection between Jewish and Black communities can be seen.”
Bravmann reached out to Baumgarten after she performed for the congregation in June.
He and BHC Executive Assistant Anita Brownstein have been planning this program, not only for BHC, but people around the country, and even in Spain and Israel.
“This performance will be an empowering celebration and journey of African Americans and Jewish Americans yearning to be heard, yearning for freedom, and yearning for acceptance and how together they found comfort, confidence, and pride in themselves by leaning in and embracing their roots,” Jillian Manko, director of engagement at BHC, wrote in an email. “Together they will discuss and celebrate the hardships, differences, and similarities of our cultures, as well as the importance of listening, embracing, advocating, and supporting each other through our individual journeys.”
Baumgarten, an operative and musical theater soprano, explained that the concert will be intertwined with lecture. “First, we’ll explain the sides of a matter and then we support the message with song as examples,” she said. “We’ll go into detail of things we’ve found about how both cultures believe in hope and overcoming oppression and resilience.”
For “Colors of the Wind,” for example, written by a Jewish composer, they’ll discuss inclusivity. “It promotes an understanding of the other,” she said. “It deals with a Native American woman and a white man and showing how they can learn from each other.”
In discussing “For Good,” also by a Jewish composer, they’ll talk the concept of friends being different each other.
“That song, to me, speaks to how we can be better,” said Taylor, a Black woman. “It speaks to how supportive we can be with one another if we allow ourselves to be helpful and to be helped. I’m better because of knowing the person. Because we know each other, there’s something you can learn from them, even in a negative interaction. Every relationship will change you, but you can choose to learn to be better from it or be changed negatively.”
The song, which will be sung as a duet, speaks to Baumgarten and Taylor’s longstanding friendship. The two met when Baumgarten was in a play acting as Cinderella and Taylor was her godmother.
“I love ‘For Good’ especially because I got to get close to [Jocelyn] and love her as a friend while being so different,” Baumgarten said. She hopes that, in turn, the audience will come away with the comfort that everyone is more similar than we think.
Taylor shared a similar sentiment. “She’s just such a gifted artist and our friendship reminds me of how much better I can be as an artist.” She hopes that their friendship and the concert itself will offer guests an uplifting sense of hope.
No matter what negative events occur in the news, she wants the community to hold on to the idea of never forgetting and hoping for better.
“We have a common heritage, and music is a wonderful way of sharing that,” she said. “We have to remember to hope.”