Temple's jazz history on display for commemorative Shabbat

There is a little bit of jazz musical history right in Cincinnati at Rockdale Temple.

When jazz composer and performer Dave Brubeck died late last year, Rockdale member Steven Goldstein reached out to Rabbi Coran with the story of the 1969 dedication of Rockdale Temple's Amberley Village synagogue.

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations—now the Union for Reform Judaism—commissioned Brubeck to create a composition that would appeal for brotherhood between the African American and Jewish communities.

Rockdale moved into the Amberley Village synagogue in October 1969—just 18 months after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis.  From that inspiration for renewed brotherhood, Gates of Justice was created.

The University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music joined in the commissioning and Cincinnati Pops icon Erich Kunzel conducted the world premiere at Rockdale's new Amberley Village synagogue.

In a 2004 article, Janelle Gelfand of the Cincinnati Enquirer quoted Brubeck saying, "The idea was to bring these two cultures together, to show similarities rather than their differences."

The text of Gates of Justice combines some lyrics written by Brubeck's wife Iola with quotations from speeches delivered by Dr. King, Hebrew liturgy and the Jewish sage Hillel.

In 2003, the Milken Archive of Jewish Music recorded an interview with Iola and Dave Brubeck.  Brubeck was known for his unconditional support of social justice.

In the 2003 oral history, he tells Eugenia Zukerman that his support of social justice grew from a lifetime including an early childhood experience where his father introduced the young Dave Brubeck to an African American man who had been branded—much like a horse or cow.

Brubeck also talked with Zuckerman about the difficulties he encountered performing with a racially integrated band.

Gates of Justice was Brubeck's second large scale composition based upon sacred texts.  Although Brubeck was not Jewish, he observed what some call a natural bond between American Jews and leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960's.

After Dr. King's assassination, Brubeck felt those bonds beginning to fray and welcomed the invitation to use his musical talents to reinforce the common threads.

In the original composition, Brubeck calls for the tenor vocalist to be a Jewish cantor and the baritone vocalist to be an African American familiar with the "sonorities and style of spirituals and blues," according to Neil Levin writing for the Miliken archive.

Rockdale Temple invites you to join in a commemorative Shabbat experience on Friday, January 18th.

Rock Shabbat services will be held at 6:15pm and a congregational dinner at 7:15pm.

At 8:15 pm, members of the community will join in a meaningful opportunity to listen to a selection from Dave Brubeck "Gates of Justice" as part of Rockdale Temple's Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration.

Rabbi Coran will lead a discussion about the work in its historic and present-day context. Rockdale Temple welcomes the public to services, dinner and the discussion.  Feel free to join in all or any part of the evening.  Please RSVP to attend at 891-9900.

Rockdale Temple will also be participating in the Interfaith Prayer Service and Commemorative Civil Rights March begins sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 20th.

Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran, senior Rabbi at Rockdale, says the Congregation is looking to include a performance of Gates of Justice into events marking next year's 190th anniversary of Rockdale.

Rockdale Temple, formally known as Kehal Kodesh Bene Israel, held its first services in January 1824 making it the oldest Jewish congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains.