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Jewish musicians spread the love on social media



“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” These words, from the song, What the World Needs Now is Love by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, were shared via YouTube and other social media platforms to Jewish communities all over the world on 15 February, the day after Valentine’s Day.

February also marks one year since the death of Bacharach, a highly influential Jewish composer.

The cover, recorded by some of Johannesburg’s well-known Jewish names in the music and recording industry, has to date received more than 5 000 views. Executive Producer Yael Benjamin said that she hoped to continue with covers like this one as part of a “song to the world” initiative honouring musicians who write and sing about peace, love, and unity.

Benjamin said that Dean Kantor, a friend of hers who also features in the song, approached her a few months ago with the idea of recording this song. After the war broke out, she felt that there was no better time to spread this message, and invited a few of her contemporaries in the industry to join them. She also approached Dan Selsick, who contacted other Jewish musicians and arranged and produced the track.

“I wanted this to belong to everybody and anybody,” said Benjamin. “We didn’t want to make a political statement, we just did it together to remind everyone that as Jewish people, as a Jewish nation, we’re the light, we’re the love, and love and light will always prevail. And though we’re going through this hard time, we mustn’t give up spreading this love and light in the world.”

She hopes that this message “is heard far and wide by many of all colours and creeds”.

“I guess we couldn’t jump on the first plane, we can’t join the army, we’re not in Israel, we can’t volunteer at a kibbutz. So we’re here and as artists, we use our craft to express what we feel in our hearts.

“I also wanted to have faces that would be recognised by the community, who would see them and know that we’re all Jewish artists standing together with our nation on behalf of the South African Jewish population,” she said. “While our government was visiting the ICJ [International Court of Justice], we were sending out a message of love.”

Another part of the video that was particularly special for Benjamin was the inclusion of her 14-year-old daughter, who joins in the singing and closes out the cover with an acapella solo. “I thought that this would help the message resonate with our audience,” she said. “We’re talking about how what the world needs now is love, but why does the world need love? Why should we care? The reason is because of our children, our children’s children, and future generations. We need to safeguard the world for them. So it made sense for me to bring a child in. It just brought the message home for us.”

Other vocalists on the track were Adam Davis; Dean Kantor; Gina Shmukler; Jonathan Birin; Lance Maron; Lorri Strauss; Peter Berman; RJ Benjamin; and Sharon Spiegel Wagner. “It had a very organic feel,” said Benjamin, “even though we’re actually all completely different and have different voices and styles of singing.” The music itself was performed by Carel Henn; David Wein; Gabriel Wolfson; Joel Klein; Peter Sklair; Simon Wolfson; and Stefan Lawrence.

“This project was an opportunity to share something special with so many friends who are singers and entertainers from our unique community,” said Birin. “We went through a bad virus recently, but now it’s our turn to spread good wishes and love to every corner of the globe. It’s time we learnt to get over our differences, and it’s more important to love one another.”

Strauss said that the idea to create this piece stemmed from “our deep-rooted desire to spread some positivity and healing at a time when our community is experiencing such pain and hardship. Our community has shown us the power of coming together in difficult times, and I hope our song shines a light on that further.

“Recording this song certainly helped heal my spirit,” Strauss said, “and I hope it contributed in some way to uplifting anyone who listened to it. Even in the darkest times, theatre and music have the power to inspire, instil hope, and unite people.”

“It’s a simple call to action – to love,” said Shmukler.

“It was a wonderful project to be part of,” said Spiegel Wagner. “It was one of those projects where people just came and put a little piece of their magic into a tapestry that came out so beautifully. What’s fascinating is that we all come from different arenas in the performing arts – from the pop world, the opera world, the theatre world, and the corporate entertainment world – and we managed to join forces and put together something really special, with the help of Dan Selsick’s amazing arrangements.”

“It’s a testament to the love of music, the fact that music speaks louder than a lot of the messages we get on social media and the news,” she said.

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