By Jennifer Corr
Temple Or Elohim of Jericho, a community reform congregation, is known for its annual concerts. Last year, it hosted the popular concert “Cantor Katz and the Shul Sisters,” the first big event since the pandemic began.
But this year, Temple Or Elohim is moving in a different direction. In the midst of an uptick in hate crimes, the temple is hosting a “Concert Against Hate” on June 25 at 7:30 p.m. According to the Anti-Defamation League, hate crimes have risen to the highest level in 12 years.
Cantor David Katz has served Temple Or Elohim for 11 years, and the temple has been around for approximately 60 years. From his understanding, the cantor hosting concerts has always been a part of the temple’s tradition. And the concert was always designed to entertain the congregants and the surrounding community.
“This year was different for me,” Katz said. “It was another news story about a particular group being [the target of a] hate crime… All of a sudden it just occurred to me. Enough is enough. If we’re going to make an impact somehow in the world, as a community and a temple that represents values and ethics and morals, then I need to do a concert against all this hate.”
The congregation, which looks forward to the annual concert every year, overwhelmingly supported the endeavor.
“In the Jewish tradition there is a deep rooted concept in social justice called Tikkun Olam,” Katz said. “Now that could come through teaching our kids to spend an hour picking up garbage, that’s Tikkun Olam. It can come under many guises. And I feel that this is the ultimate level of Tikkun Olam. That the temple is hosting a music event to get people together to express themselves against the hatred going on in the world.”
The Concert Against Hate will feature Vocalist Katz, Conductor Dean Karahalis, Vocalist Deana Verone, Folk Rock Trio Gathering Time, Concert Pops of Long Island, Toby Tobias Ensemble and special guest Gospel Choir The Nehemiah Project.
Katz said in planning the event, every artist he called was available on June 25. Adding in the convenience was that the Town of Oyster Bay’s “Showmobile” was available that day.
The event is free, but guests should register ahead of time. And since seating isn’t provided, guests should bring their own chairs. Refreshments are also welcome.
“Music has always been universally used as a uniter,” Katz said. “I searched on the island and found particular music groups that espoused and have an act of trying to convey messaging and unity and coming together and basically speaking out against injustice and hate.”
About the acts:
According to Temple Or Elohim’s website, Katz is a graduate of the Hebrew Union College Institute of Jewish Religion. His accomplishments include being invested as Cantor by Hebrew Union College in 1998; serving as leading tenor in the Jerusalem Great Synagogue Choir while he was studying in Israel; serving as a member of “The Three Jewish Tenors,”; singing with many prominent orchestras in the United States; singing lead roles in Opera in the United States and Europe; appearing in Cantorial concerts in the United States as a guest soloist and artist and singing the National Anthem for the New York Mets at Citi Field and the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Conductor Dean Karahalis, according to Center Stage, is the founder of Concert Pops of Long Island and serves as its conductor and music director. His accomplishments includes performing with famous orchestras like the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra; serving as conductor/musical director of the Eglevsky Ballet; performing alongside Kristen Chenoweth, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Idina Menzel; among many other accomplishments. He is a graduate of Mannes College of Music, Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College and Hofstra University.
“I thought speaking with the conductor, who is a friend, we could find music that sends the message we’re looking for.”
Vocalist Deana Verone, according to the Five Towns College website, has been an adjunct professor of vocal studies for over 10 years. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Molloy College and master’s from Long Island University. She is a well-known Mezzo-Soprano and has performed at the Tilles Center, NJPAC and Hofstra University. When she is not performing, she is a music educator and teaches early childhood music education and beginner piano at Nassau Community College. She has worked as a music librarian/backstage assistant for many performing artists including Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth.
Gathering Time, made up of musicians Stuart Markus, Gerry McKeveny, and since 2022 Christine Sweeney, have toured around the United States and internationally. They take inspiration from the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“They do all the ‘60s folk rock, so that was the very first uprising of music against hate,” Katz said. “They’re incredible musicians.”
Toby Tobias was born in South Africa, and has continued to share his story of hope that he acquired during a time of war and upheaval across three continents: from Johannesburg, to Jerusalem to here.
“Toby shares the vivid tale of his life in South Africa under the rule of an apartheid government, then in an Israel on the brink of battle for its own identity, before finding a home, and many stark parallels, in the United States of America,” his website stated.
He is a composer and guitarist for the Toby Tobias Ensemble. Katz will be singing a song Tobias wrote called “Peace Will Come.”
The Nehemiah Project is a community organization started in Long Beach around 10 years ago. Their mission is to help rebuild communities through song. The name is based on the Biblical story of Nehemiah and the building of the city walls of Jerusalem. They love making communities smile when they encourage and inspire them through song.
“I felt it would be a great representation,” Katz said. “Gospel choirs are always singing about love and peace and coming together.”
The purpose of this event is to come together, no matter what religion or background someone may have, to spread the message of unity.
“I would like people to rewind and have people remember that there still is hope, kindness and caring and community and love in the world, even though what we see incessantly is the opposite,” Katz said. “By doing this and making a little bit more of an effort, we can all perhaps start making a dent with our love and our voice against the hatred that unfortunately continues more and more out there. People can come to have a break from all the hate. Let’s do a different energy. Let’s make this happen.”
To register for the concert, call 516-433-9888 ext.14 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.