More than 100 British Progressive Jews enjoyed a special performance by the Peace Drums Youth Band to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Israel’s Leo Baeck Education Center.
The concert was held at Alyth Synagogue in North London – a fitting venue as the late Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck was the shul’s president from 1948 until 1956.
Alyth’s Rabbi Mark Goldsmith spoke of this shared connection and how both institutions have been able to ensure his memory connects them to this day. He said, “Leo Baeck was a pioneer in building relationships between different faith groups in pre-war Germany. He would surely have been proud to know that the school which bears his name is a pioneer in the same work in Israel and is also connected to the synagogue which he made his home community in London.”
The Leo Baeck Education Center, located in Haifa, is a beacon for Jewish values and an important part of the peace-building process. With nearly 2,700 students, a community centre, sports facilities and vibrant Progressive synagogue, the egalitarian Center serves more than 35,000 people of all faiths and personal identities. Both Hebrew and Arabic are spoken across its campuses.
The Peace Drums Youth Band consists of 12 young people from the Leo Baeck High School and the nearby Mar Elias High School, located in the Arab village of Ibillin. The band was the branchild of interfaith leaders in Delaware brought to life by a professional percussionist, Harvey Price, as a way to truly invest in lasting peace in the Middle East. Harvey introduced and even on occasion joined the group at the Alyth concert.
Rabbi Ofek Meir, the director of the Leo Baeck Education Centre, and Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, the chair of the UK Friends of Leo Baeck Haifa, also spoke at the event. Rabbi Aaron said:“The Leo Baeck Education Center is a clear illustration of what Israeli society can look like. If you ever lack hope, it provides such an injection.
“This concert was an incredible and very fitting way to celebrate 80 years of such a vital institution and I hope it will encourage people to visit Haifa and see this living investment in peace for themselves.”
Fawda, a Christian Arab girl in the band said: “We live all together in Israel, many religions, Muslims, Jews, Christians. Peace Drums gives us the chance to meet and learn how to get along with each other. I have new friends, new Jewish friends and we are now like best friends. It’s amazing and it’s important. Peace Drums should not be the only place people here can meet and learn how to get along together so that the seeds of peace we are creating can be spread throughout. We want to thank the host families, they were like a real family to us even for such a short time.”
Dror, Jewish boy in the band added: “Peace Drums helps with us learn to live together because it is an activity where it does not matter who you are, Muslim, Jew or Christian, we make music together and that brings us together. An Arab and Jew from our band, in pairs, stayed with the host families in London who were very welcoming.”