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Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 09:17 am

Music ‘repairing the world’

Rick Recht comes to Springfield to “Tear Down the Walls”

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Rick Recht, right, performs at a Tear Down the Walls concert.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

It’s a commandment familiar to both Jews and Christians, but it takes a person of strong faith to both talk the talk and walk the walk. Rick Recht, the top touring artist in Jewish rock, is one such person. He’s making it his business to tear down the walls of prejudice in an effort to tikkun olam, “repair the world.”

Tear Down the Walls is a musical program focused on uniting people of various faiths and ethnicities. This weekend, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 18 at Abundant Faith Christian Center, Rick Recht will be spreading his message. The concert is a scripted theatrical production that includes spoken word by local religious leaders and activists. The presentation features choirs from Abundant Faith Christian Center, Temple Israel, Temple B’rith Shalom and Westminster Presbyterian Church. Recht says tearing down the walls actually begins before the concert, while he is practicing the music with the choirs.

“There is no showcasing. No white choir. No Jewish choir. No black choir. Musically the bridge is happening right before your eyes,” he says. “The most important conversations we have are ‘Where do you live?’ ‘How did you learn how to sing like that?’ It’s obvious we have a lot in common, but deep down people don’t believe it until they see it.”

Recht wants people to form relationships that last beyond rehearsal. He hopes people will become active in organizations that help break down social barriers.

Recht makes it easy for those in attendance to build a bridge of diversity by involving organizations committed to civil and social action. The NAACP, the Chicago/ Upper Midwest Anti-Defamation League, the Springfield Urban League and the Springfield Jewish Federation will provide concert goers with information on how to participate in their organizations.

Recht has been playing Jewish rock for nine years, and came up with the tour three years ago during a Martin Luther King Breakfast in Memphis, Tenn., at the National Civil Rights Museum.

“We started singing and I saw the power of music to build a bridge between people of different ethnicities. The youth became educated and began to break down biases,” he says.

The idea for the concert in Springfield came several years ago, after Recht performed at Temple Israel for Chanukah and a Friday Night Live Shabbat Service. Jerry Schwartz, a member of Temple Israel and coordinator of that event, worked for years to bring Recht back to Springfield. He felt the Tear Down the Walls tour was a perfect opportunity.

“I thought the Tear Down the Walls program was an interesting concept that Recht developed,” Schwartz says. “It’s a program that is upbeat and shows that everybody can get along together. We just thought Martin Luther King weekend would be a good weekend.”

Rabbi Marks of Temple Israel expects Tear Down the Walls to be a very emotional evening that will inspire others to build a dialogue. He sees it as a step in confronting the problems that plague religious and ethnic communities.

“There is too much of people being hostile, standoffish and suspicious. There are absolutely walls that need to be torn down,” he says. Marks will be reading a passage during the production.

“Tikkun olam is an imperative for social justice,” Marks says. It means to perfect the world under the kingship of the almighty. If Rick Recht is uniting people then it is helping to perfect the world.”

Pastor Jerry Doss of Abundant Faith Christian Center says he is honored to have a multi-ethnic production at his church.

“Taking part in such an event helps us understand we are all people, we all love God, let’s worship and celebrate him together,” Doss says. “I am looking forward to meeting new people and having a diverse worship experience that resembles heaven.”

Contact Patrice Worthy at pworthy@illinoistimes.com.

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