Symbolizing a growing friendship some calling it a brotherhood between the Jewish and Latter-day Saint faiths and cultures, a choir of Jewish cantors from Israel joined with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at its weekly rehearsal Oct. 18 for a "musical exchange."
The Voices of Israel cantorial choir, conducted by Yaakov Rotner, was in Salt Lake City in connection with an event sponsored by Netanya Israel Academic College House of Judah, House of Joseph Dialogue Center, that brought together members of the two faiths for a concert and dinner Oct. 19 at the Jewish Community Center near the University of Utah campus.
Some 2,000 people attended the choir rehearsal in the Conference Center, one of several appearances in the city by the cantorial choir that culminated with the cultural gathering the following evening that featured addresses from officials of the college, from retired Israeli army general Baruch Spiegel and from Gerald R. Molen, producer of the film "Schindler's List."
"Ladies and gentlemen, I came to Utah and I came to Salt Lake City, and I found love, among my Jewish, and if I may say so openly and in public, among my Mormon brothers," said David Altman, senior vice president and one of the founders of Netanya Academic College.
Speaking in the context of decrying the terror and hatred that surround the nation of Israel in the troubled Middle East, Dr. Altman said of his newfound Mormon friends, "I didn't know anything about them, but they received me with open hands and open hearts, with so much hope and so much understanding and so much willingness to know more and share more, not only of the history we have together but of the present and future."
Earlier, the gathering was addressed by Joseph Ginat, vice president of international affairs and director of the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya. An archeologist and anthropologist by profession, Dr. Ginat has ties to Salt Lake City, where he was a professor at the University of Utah and where he forged a friendship with President Harold B. Lee and subsequent Church presidents. He has served in a number of cabinets and ministries in the Israeli government.
Dr. Ginat spoke of his admiration for Elder Orson Hyde, who, under assignment from Joseph Smith, dedicated Israel in 1841for the gathering of the Jews.
He recounted that Elder Hyde met with rabbis in the eastern United States and in Europe and advised them not to encourage Jews to come to America or Europe, but rather to go to Israel and fulfill the prayer that their people would return to their homeland.
"So when I learned about him, I thought it was important for the world, not only the Mormons and the Jewish people, to know about him." Thus, he and Dr. Altman worked to have a square named after Orson Hyde at the college.