When the St. Louis Opera Theater staged âThe Death of Klinghoffer,â a controversial play that allegedly legitimized terrorism against Jews in 2011, it sparked an interfaith concert effort that continued a decade later.
âWe were all getting to know new people and having wonderful discussions, and we decided that maybe this concert should be an annual event,â said Paul Reuter, who was then executive director of the Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries, which hosted the first concert.
Reuter, who retired from Sheldon, is executive director of Arts & Faith St. Louis, which is preparing to air a 10e Interfaith anniversary concert on Sunday, September 12 at 4 p.m. on HEC-TV and on the YouTube channel and the Arts & Faith website, among others. Visit for more information.
The concert is virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is just one reason there appears to be such polarization in the United States.
Reuter hopes this year’s concert will once again help bring people together.
“The objective is to build a harmonious Saint-Louis, to use the arts to bring together the religious community and the community at large, to bridge the gaps,” he said.
The opera that sparked the first concert tells the story of Palestinian terrorists who boarded an Italian ship and shot a Jew, Leon Klinghoffer, while he was sitting in his wheelchair, then threw his body overboard. The Klinghoffer Girls and the Anti-Defamation League opposed the opera because by linking the plight of the Palestinians to Klinghoffer’s murder, it rationalized it, they said.
But the OpÃ©ra ThÃ©Ã¢tre de Saint-Louis went ahead with its plan. The theater company also partnered with the Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis and other faith groups to organize a series of interfaith discussions, which then led to a new initiative, Arts & Faith St. Louis. , which commemorated the 10e anniversary of September 11 with an interfaith concert at the Sheldon.
At the inaugural event, former US Senator John Danforth, R-Mo., Spoke, and acclaimed soprano Christine Brewer, among others, performed to a full house. Brewer returns every year, with choirs and musicians from a variety of backgrounds.
Rabbi Howard Kaplansky of the United Hebrew Congregation, who was involved in planning the event until the pandemic and delivered the blessing at six concerts, said: âOften I had tears watching the performers. , not only because there were children’s choirs and presenters. , but tears to see that people can come together for a common cause, to celebrate each other.
This year’s virtual concert will feature new performances by Brewer and an interfaith choir of young high school singers. The hour-long show will also include selections from previous interfaith concerts, including Rob Aronson, a local Jewish musician and choirmaster at Congregation Temple Israel, performing “Gesher (The bridge).”
The song has a refrain in Hebrew which translates to “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing is to have no fear at all.”
It’s about “making Gd watch over you and finding the strength within yourself to stand up for yourself for what’s right,” said Aronson, who performed twice at the concert.
He sees Arts & Faith as an important organization because it brings together people of different faiths, ethnicities and beliefs, which is âwhat we need most today in particular. People don’t listen to each other. They don’t come with others who are different from them.
Even though people won’t be able to meet at the Sheldon this year, Reuter said he hoped the concert would still inspire viewers “to break down barriers and find common ground with people who may seem different from them, other parts of Saint-Louis. , from different faiths, from different races, from different parts of the world.