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Joint Jewish-Christian concert hopes to feed the hungry

While conflicts rage in other parts of the world, Christians and Jews in Duluth are coming together to celebrate the holidays by raising money for the hungry and homeless with a gala concert on Saturday at the First United Methodist Church.

While conflicts rage in other parts of the world, Christians and Jews in Duluth are coming together to celebrate the holidays by raising money for the hungry and homeless with a gala concert on Saturday at the First United Methodist Church.
The theme of this year's concert is "The Light of Peace" and features renowned tenor Bill Bastian and Rabbi Amy Bernstein as well as the Clergy Choir and the E-Band singing traditional Christmas music as well as music from Jewish traditions.
"The Hebrew word for peace is 'Shalom,' Bernstein said in a recent release. "It comes from 'shalem' which means 'whole.' In Jewish tradition, individual wholeness and the wholeness of the world are connected. When we pull the fractured part of our community together, that's what makes for peace."
This is the fifth year that Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) has held a benefit concert, said Marj Johnson, development director at CHUM. The money raised is used to fund the wide range of CHUM programs throughout the community. The goal this year is $5,000. The concert is free, but free-will donations will be taken.
The benefit concert evolved from a collaboration between the Duluth Area United Methodist Ministries and Bernstein. "They wanted to do something to support CHUM," Johnson said. "The first year, we had a couple of school choral groups. The second year, we invited Bill Bastian to join us." The benefit concert has grown from there, she said.
"One of the things we emphasize is Christian-Jewish relations and the unity those two faiths share and through that, what all people of faith share," Johnson said.
The flare-up of violence in the Middle East this year suggested the theme of peace, she said.
"We were looking at that and the fact that here we have Christian people and Jewish people working together, following the mandates of their religion to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless," she said. "We invite people to come and celebrate together -- celebrate our shared traditions and then work for the community."
The Rev. Elizabeth Olm, associate pastor at First United Methodist, said Bastian will sing one of his signature songs, "O Holy Night," as well as a number of other selections.
Bernstein and a group of singers from Temple Israel will sing Hanukkah songs as well as songs from traditional Jewish repertoire.
The Clergy Choir, made up of area clergy, will also sing, including a song composed by Bastian. "It may be over our heads, but we're going to smile and try," Olm said. "It'll be fun."
The Clergy Choir includes Karen Gustaffson and Ivor Bogen from the Unitarian Church; Elton Brown, University United Methodist; Cooper Wiggen and Olm, First United Methodist; Sharon Osborn, Asbury United Methodist; Kathy Nelson, Peace Church; Margaret Thomas, St. Edward's Episcopal Church; Bob Saunders, chaplain at St. Mary's Medical Center and Bernstein.
United Methodist's E-band will be back-up for the vocalists, she said.
Following the theme of peace, the audience will be given candles at the beginning of the concert, which will conclude with a candle lighting ceremony, Johnson said. At the end, Bastian and Bernstein will do a duet, "Shalom Rav."
The concert begins at 7 p.m. For more information, call 720-6521.
Joan Farnam is arts and entertainment editor at the Budgeteer News. Contact her at joan.farnam@duluth.com or at 723-1207.

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