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Bridging the Gap: An Interfaith Concert of Muslim and Jewish Music
“CELEBRATING 500 YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA”
BOSNIAN / BOSANSKI
It is an extraordinary historical message of good will told through music. Bridging the Gap: an Interfaith Concert of Muslim and Jewish Music promises to bring Chicago’s interfaith community together, in celebration of 500 Years of friendship in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This ground-breaking cultural event will be held Sunday, September 2, 7PM, at the American Islamic College, 640 W. Irving Park in Chicago.
Celebrating 500 Years of Friendship will include guest speaker Rabbi Neil Brief and a performance by the Chicago Syntagma Musicum Chorus. The program is presented in partnership by the American Islamic Center of Bosniaks in Chicago, the Jewish Urban Affairs League, and American Music Festivals.
Jews and Bosnian Muslims share a common historical bond. They were displaced at the hands of 15th Century Inquisitors, finding refuge in Bosnia-Herzegovina and neighboring areas under Ottoman rule. They suffered together at the hands of Nazi collaborators in World War II and fifty years later Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) suffered the first genocide in Europe since the Holocaust. The September 2nd event will include the debut of the photo exhibit “Remembering the Genocide in Bosnia,” by Samir Hadzalic, Outreach Director for American Music Festivals.
In the National Museum in Sarajevo a Haggadah is proudly displayed. Written in Hebrew it is one of the most beautiful books of its kind, dating back to around the 15th century when it was brought from Spain. Near the Museum, a Synagogue and Mosque stand next to each other, reminding us of the peaceful coexistence that Jews and Muslims enjoyed for centuries in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This friendship led to the development of Sevdah music, which combines folk elements of the Sephardic, Balkan, and Arabic traditions. It is through the music and text of these melancholy songs that their friendship can best be understood.
The American Islamic Center of Bosniaks in Chicago is part of The Islamic Association of Bosniaks in North America. Since 2003, the Association has grown to include over 50 mosques and Islamic centers, representing over 200,000 Bosniak Muslims. Imam Senad Agic is the Imam of American Islamic Center of Bosniaks in Chicago, and founder and former Head Imam of the Bosniaks in America. Born in Bosnia-Herzegovina, he is a Professor of Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Foundation and has been active in numerous interfaith programs in Chicago and throughout the United States. His current academic interests focus on traditional moderate Islam which shuns extremism and religious animosity in favor of coexistence, cooperation, dialogue, and mutual understanding, appreciation and respect.
Guest speaker Rabbi Neil Brief served for over 40 years at Ezra Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish Congregation. Born in New York City, he is a graduate of New York University and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and has received Honorary Doctorates from Rabbinical schools in New York, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. A community activist, he was a Commissioner for the Village of Skokie for 30 years, and during the Nazi and Klu Klux Klan marches he worked passionately to improve community relations. After retiring, Rabbi Brief has traveled extensively, worshipping in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. He is appreciative of all efforts to further understanding, and the nurturing of relationships which extend through the ages.
American Music Festivals collaborates with communities and organizations in Chicago and around the world to present programs of cultural exchange. The nonprofit has worked with a number of Bosnian organizations to facilitate orchestral concerts featuring Bosnian music and soloists including programs at Northeastern Illinois University and Lake Forest Academy. In 2009 Artistic Director Philip Simmons conducted the Sarajevo Philharmonic in the National Theater of Sarajevo in a concert which was televised throughout the country.
The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs is active in building long-term, in-depth and sustained relationships between the Jewish and Muslim communities. These relationships help to dissolve barriers of potential bigotry and ignorance and to foster a culture of genuine understanding and respect. Through their Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative, JCUA brings together Jews and Muslims through cultural events, educational opportunities, and by creating avenues for jointly advocating on social justice issues important to both communities.
Bridging the Gap: An Interfaith Concert of Muslim and Jewish Music, “Celebrating 500 Years of Friendship in Bosnia and Herzegovina” is possible because of the partnership of these religious, cultural, and public advocacy organizations. Tickets to the September 2nd event are $25, and are available on line at www.americanmusicfestivals.com. Call 847-530-4061 for more information.
Philip Simmons Director AMF