Powerful Performance Sends Take Home Message of the GA: The importance of dialogue is fundamentally linked to the importance of listening to one another

The General Assembly, an annual gathering of the top Jewish leaders from Israel and North American, was held this year at the Tel Aviv Convention Center from Oct. 22-24. This year’s assembly addressed the issues that join and divide the Jewish communities in Israel and the Diaspora, encouraging participants that it is “time to talk”.  The three-day-long conference drew some 3000 participants, who were privileged to explore the controversial facets of Jewish life in Israel and abroad.

The closing plenary session on Wednesday; however, sent home the message that “now it’s time to listen”. The plenary program featured remarks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Richard Sandler, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America; and Canadian Ambassador to Israel Deborah A. Lyons; as well as a jaw-dropping performance by the Shalva Band of Israeli young adults with varying disabilities. The powerful performance included the American and Candian National Anthems as well as a breathtaking rendition of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen; demonstrating that we are more alike than different.

Following the band’s performance, Canadian Ambassador to Israel Deborah Lyons proudly exclaimed, “To be am modest Canadian and say, that Band came from the vision and mind of a Vancouverite who left Canada some twenty years ago to contribute to Israel; and to listen to that band, those beautiful young voices…. I just want to say how rich our lives are when we come together.”

The Shalva Band is comprised of talented musicians with disabilities and performs to the highest musical standards by invitation at cultural venues and dignitary events throughout the year.  What stemmed from music therapy sessions at the Shalva National Center, the Shalva Band was established in 2005 and has developed into a model for cultural inclusion.  The Shalva Band has received international acclaim, having performed in several communities in countries around the world, captivating audiences with their musical talents and inspiring values of inclusion and unity.