Jewish voices to sing out in concert for Marin homeless

In an effort to raise awareness of the homeless issue, five Jewish organizations are supporting "Sing a Song of Caring," an evening of Jewish music to benefit the Marin Interfaith Homeless Chaplaincy. The concert will be held Saturday evening, Sept. 20, at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael.

"Our interfaith effort allows all members of faith to come together to address special needs," Seligman-Kennard said. "The well-being of the larger community is a concern of everybody, especially Jews. We are commanded to repair the world, tikkun olam."

Rabbi Alan Lew of San Francisco's Congregation Beth Sholom, said, "There were absolutely no homeless people living in San Rafael about 20 years ago, believe me." Although Lew is not involved in the Marin program, he was arrested last May during a rally to save Presidio military housing for homeless people.

"Many find it hard to realize that there are Jews living in the streets," said Brenda Gates-Monasch, a consultant for the chaplaincy. "As we prepare for the High Holy Days, let us remember to look spiritually."

Headlining the concert is recording artist Judy Frankel, who specializes in the haunting songs of the Sephardim.

Rodef Sholom Cantor David Margules, a tenor who spent years with opera companies before beginning his cantorial career, will also perform.

"It is so fitting for this time of year for Jews to look inward and evaluate how we live our lives on a daily basis, and then joyfully fulfill our commandment of taking care of the stranger," Margules said.

Other event performers include Marin Rabbi and Cantor Nathan Segal, who is particularly known for drawing his music from Chassidic tales with roots in Eastern Europe as well as classic Jewish texts and liturgy.

Havdallah services will be led by cantorial soloist Fredi Bloom, a probation officer for Marin County.

Event directors said the evening will invoke the spirit of Elul and the High Holy Days as a community. The program, designed to be inclusive, also features Charlene Bronstein, a homeless Jewish poet who will read some of her work.

Bronstein credited the chaplaincy with "empowering me to practice and explore Judaism. I didn't feel part of a community. When I came to the chaplaincy, I found encouragement.

"The first year I participated in the chaplaincy, we celebrated Chanukah, which gave me a feeling of belonging and roots again."

The interfaith chaplaincy is designed to give homeless people positive encounters with faith. "As Jews, we have to acknowledge that each individual exists on a spiritual level," Gates-Monasch said. "Otherwise, we deny the holiness of each person."

Does the Interfaith Chaplaincy's open-door policy of providing spiritual support and education for all of Marin's unsheltered, ever allow cult-like evangelical groups to sneak and soul-snatch homeless Jews who are in dire need of friendship and support?

"Homeless people are not the kind of people they are out to get," Gates-Monasch said.

Participating organizations include Congregation Rodef Sholom, Congregation Kol Shofar of Tiburon, the Jewish Congregation of the San Geronimo Valley, the Women's Alliance of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council.