Photo Credit: courtesy, Trevor Sachs
Jonathan Birin when he's not performing

South African Jewish vocalist and entertainer Jonathan Birin has come up with a new project to unite Jews in the community and around the world.

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The project, ‘Forty South African Rabbanim and Chazzanim join to sing Avinu Malkenu, was produced by Birin together with Rabbi Yossi Chaikin, the chairman of the South African Rabbinical Association.

“Shuls or synagogues have been closed for almost five months,” Birin told JewishPress.com in an email exchange. “There have been lots of zoom webinars provided by shuls and the Jewish Report Newspaper.

“But I felt there was a need to show the community that even though we are physically apart, we are all in this together and we are all there for each other, and the rabbis and chazanim (cantors) are still part of our special community.”

According to Birin, Rabbi Chaikin sent out an email asked for volunteers who might like to be involved in the video, which he said would bring “a message of unity and hope for our community.

“We got an amazing response from rabbis who could sing, and rabbis who couldn’t sing — but that didn’t matter,” Birin said. “They felt the need to send out a message of love and blessing through song.

“Each rabbi and chazan was sent a sample video of a Chazan singing and they were asked to record and video themselves to sing along. I received 40 videos and collated them, did a little tuning, and mixing and then assembled the video,” Birin explained.

“The video is going viral,” he added. “I received a phone call from a friend who saw it; she was crying. She said the video gave her such a sense of belonging and joy.

“One thing I have learned from my travels is that wherever we are in this world, we all end up singing this version of Avinu Malkenu. Even though we are apart, we are definitely still as one.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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