Polyphony Comes to Temple

Feb 03, 2023 / 12 Shevat, 5783

Don’t miss Polyphony at Temple on Sunday, February 12 at 1 p.m. for a concert that will feature classical, as well as Arab and Israeli music, performed by Polyphony artists. These accomplished singers and instrumentalists will be joined by musicians from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Temple’s own Cantors Vicky Glikin and Leslie Niren. Register here to attend. Learn more about the Polyphony Foundation below.

The mission of the nonprofit Polyphony is to bring together Jewish and Arab Israelis to listen and connect, sometimes in disagreement. But even its founder Nabeel Abboud Ashkar, admits that’s not how the organization began.

Nabeel says the story began in Nazareth, Israel, with parents who made sure he and his brother could learn and experience music all over Israel. After getting his master’s degree in Germany in 2006, Nabeel returned to Nazareth to start the first classical music conservatory for Arab students, taught by Jewish teachers from Tel Aviv. “Originally there wasn’t an intention to bridge cultures, the goal was to bring classical music to the Arab community.”

After community support and years of students winning awards for music of all kinds, Nabeel realized the power behind the work that they were doing, not only for the Arabs of Nazareth but for Israeli culture as a whole. He says “A big part of the transformation of the mission for me, was traveling to places like Temple Emanu-El Dallas as an Arab man and being able to see Judaism outside of Israel. I was encouraged to look for the good in people and create a chance to connect and listen.”

Today, Polyphony offers music education and appreciation in Arab schools and the Nazareth music conservatory. It also creates cohorts of students who learn how music can create common ground and build relationships. The work is always focused on inclusion and respect, he says.

One example of the work Polyphony is doing is the Galilee Chamber Orchestra, a high-level orchestra made up of Jewish and Arab musicians who made their Carnegie Hall debut in 2022. He describes the orchestra as a “microphone,” a message to the world that music truly does bring people together. “Polyphony is the hope for a better future,” he says.