More than 120 people gathered at JW3 this week for a landmark event which brought together Jewish and Roma artists for a night of music, dance and poetry.
Taking place to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘Together in Tune’ celebrated the two communities’ cultural differences and crossover through art on Tuesday.
Five performers took to the stage, ranging from Gypsy jazz and blues singer-songwriter Florence Joelle, to Roma dancer Luludinka, poet, Phien O’Reachtigan and Jewish Middle Eastern fusion band Bis-Bas.
Hosted by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) with human rights group René Cassin and the Jewish Music Institute, the sell-out event saw the audience, ranging from 10 to 85 years old, clapping, and stamping their feet from their seats.
Luludinka brought members of the audience on to the floor to participate, while Bis-Bas, who describe themselves as a “spicy fusion of Klezmer and Middle Eastern” influences, sang in both Hebrew and English.
The band, who perform with a violin, trumpet and guitar, chanted traditional Jewish songs, and contemporary tunes which they’d written, with one relating to dating in Jewish circles, and another which has lyrics which are “a literal recipe for chicken soup”.
Vocalist Jonny Mosesson said: “As a Jew, I was drawn not only because we both share a past steeped in persecution, but because both communities have a love and culture of celebration and this excited me”.
UJS President Josh Holt told guests as he opened the interfaith event: ‘Music transcends cultural, social, and political boundaries, and as Jews who place strong importance on the value of community, we must be proactive in recognising and celebrating other minority groups such as the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities, partnering in a way that celebrates and acknowledges the similarities of our cultures.”
Phien O’Reachtigan, co-Chair of the National Gypsy-Traveller-Roma Council, spoke about rising hostility and harassment experienced by members of the community, while artist Florence Joelle said: “It was a joy being part of Together in Tune, both communities have so much in common”,
Dan Rafaeli, UJS J-Soc Officer, who focuses on interfaith initiatives, said: “As a minority community it’s crucial that we stand up for other minorities when they face threats, as the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities often do.