Rabbi David Wolpe in Thailand: Have you ever seen a menorah dance?

Traveling reminds us that the old is distinctive and the new melds together. I had never been to Thailand, or indeed to any country in Southeast Asia. As the bus rolled through the streets, nothing in the facade of the 7-Eleven convenience store or the crushed muddle of Bangkok traffic proved startling. They were new phenomena, and modernity homogenizes the world: Golden Arches stretch from Boston to Bangalore. Suddenly though, rising from the Bangkok street was a reclining Buddha, long and languorous, golden and utterly unexpected. The old is distinctive and the new familiar: Buddhism is old. Rush hour is new.

The same question about what is truly old and what is new bubbles beneath the surface of Jewish life. Is it genuine or a newish fad to speak of Judaism as a crusade for economic equality? A traditionalist might say, in the manner of the paragraph above, tefillin old, social justice new. What is distinctive and therefore most precious about Judaism is its ancient legacy.

But that would be too hasty and censorious a judgment. Jews have never cared only for Jews. In the ancient Temple, the Priest would make 70 sacrifices, one for each nation of the world. Helping others mipne darchei shalom, because of the path of peace, is at least as old as the Mishna, a scant 600 years after the Buddha. Any cursory reading of the prophets teaches that economic justice and human rights may not be the sum of Judaism, but there is no Judaism without them. 

 So filled with ideas both old and new, incongruous as it may seem, a busload of Jews from across the United States rolled through the streets of Thailand arguing about the Jewish tradition. What does Judaism have to say about the equitable distribution of resources, or the rights to protection against violence and exploitation of sex workers? Is poverty in the village less onerous than poverty in the city? What was I, and the group from American Jewish World Service (AJWS) I was traveling with, doing in a nation with so little Jewish history? Jews have had a profound impact in numerous lands throughout the world, but the Jewish story of Thailand would fill, at most, a page — if the print were writ large. 

First there are delightful, surprising synergies. On my way into Bangkok, my guide was lamenting how the Buddhist calendar, because it is lunar, mandates a leap year every few years to balance things out. Crazy, huh? “Umm,” I said — thereby cementing Jews’ reputation for snappy repartee — “us, too.” 

We came during a 10-day festival of vegetarianism. Buddhists eat meat, the guide explained, but because they recognize that all meat eating involves death, they have regulations to remind them of that sad necessity of life. “Umm,” I said — invoking my now-familiar mantra — “us, too.”

Then he began to complain how little genuine Buddhist education most Buddhists receive. At this point I just kept quiet, because he was starting to think I was just copying everything he said. 

But perhaps nothing was quite so startling as seeing a traditional presentation, performed by a heavily made-up, costumed “queen” with delicate movements and slow, angled poses. The spectacle was a treat, but its name was better. “Menora” refers to the theater form and may have originated from a proper name. Still, however many Jews have lit a menorah, few can say they saw a menora dance.

AJWS is an organization whose stated aim is to realize human rights and help alleviate poverty in the developing world. But its mission is a specific kind of relief. Although traveling to some of the most bereft spots on the planet, its groups are instructed not to “give” anything to the people whom they meet. AJWS is not engaged in charity as traditionally conceived. The sole and significant exception is that we brought a bunch of T-shirts. That matters for reasons I will explain below.

A Thai woman from a group funded by AJWS offers hospitality to visitors. Photo by Angela Maddahi

Instead, AJWS identifies groups doing important work in their own countries, which are underfunded, and helps them with personal contacts and funds. The amounts are small by charitable standards — $15,000, $20,000 — but they can make a huge difference in the lives of struggling activists in poor countries.

Years ago, while I was teaching at Hunter College in New York in the 1980s, a rally to end apartheid in South Africa and a rally to free Soviet Jewry were both held on the same day. At the end of class, a Jewish student asked me which she should attend. I answered that she should go to the Soviet Jewry rally because, I explained, if you go to the Soviet Jewry rally, others will still attend the anti-apartheid rally. But if Jews flock to the anti-apartheid rally, who will be left to agitate on behalf of Soviet Jews? I added that at the next anti-apartheid rally, she should absolutely go. Ours are not the only causes worth fighting for. If we are only for ourselves we will never succeed in being ourselves.

The question of whom and how to help is urgent. Family first, but not only family. Helping outside your family is part of defining what kind of family you are. Additionally, the remarkable finding of recent surveys is that Jews who give to the Jewish community are also those most likely to give to general causes. In other words, giving is not a zero-sum game. The same people on the bus in Thailand who give time and money to remote villagers are deeply involved and invested in Jewish charities. The president of AJWS, Ruth Messinger, former president of the borough of Manhattan, is also a learned, involved and committed Jew. In her early 70s, she is still constantly traveling to the 19 countries AJWS serves, indefatigably shlepping, exhorting and instructing. Rabbis accompany the trips to provide Jewish perspective, teaching and values. The aim of AJWS is to help non-Jews as Jews.

Thailand is a place where the poverty is not as dire as in many other lands in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean served by AJWS. It is that rare country that was never colonized and, even in a fairly remote village, while there was no cell reception or Internet, we saw several people crowded around an old laptop playing a game and a delighted child with eyes fixed on an iPhone. This village’s livelihood, old and arduous, is the slow and painstaking accumulation of rubber from trees, which forms Thailand’s main industry.

But there is deep poverty, political oppression and an enduring need, and among the marginalized remains a yearning to be heard. Thailand is still a country where criticizing the king will land you in prison, and criticizing the government can get you “disappeared.” AJWS has sought out local groups that are working for human rights and fosters their efforts through encouragement and aid. A fishing village is trying to hold onto the profit from its labors and limit the coal production in its vicinity; a farming village seeks to retain the right to its land, held for generations. Funding does not decide these issues, but it helps to give the people a voice. 

Living conditions in the poor neighborhoods of Thailand can be seen in this makeshift house, yet the residents are generous and anxious to preserve their traditional customs. Photo by Angela Maddahi

In some parts of the world, encouragement means making alliances with people like Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, an early recipient of AJWS grants who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. It means rehabilitating child soldiers; fighting human trafficking; opposing the practices of forcing children to marry, sell their bodies or lose their parents. It means supporting war widows and promoting literacy in some of the most forsaken and poverty-stricken lands on earth. 

Like its neighbors, Thailand was devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Our guide spoke to us of the courage of the women he knew who identified the bodies, row upon row, from the towns and villages where they lived. He did not want to leave his house until his son, a month after the tsunami, forced him outside and back into life. The undercurrent of trauma continues to ripple through Thailand. Think of 9/11, which took place a few years before the tsunami, and recall that more than twice as many people died in Thailand than in the World Trade Center Towers, in a country with a population roughly one-fifth that of the United States. 

It is not lost on anyone, from the groups we help to the guides we employ, that we are Jews. In a particularly dramatic moment on our trip, one man, through a translator, told Messinger that he had heard good things and bad things about Jews, but he now knew what we stood for because other groups came right after the tsunami and never returned. He said, in a moment of delicious incongruity, that he was going to show his children the Holocaust movie “Life Is Beautiful,” which he had seen, so they would know more about Jews. Another man, in a group that included many Muslims (who make up a mere 5 percent of the population of Thailand), said he knew that in the world there were those who had political divisions, Muslim and Jew, but what mattered was that we were there to help. We gave T-shirts to the group, and I like to think that across Thailand (and all the countries served by AJWS), there are children with “Jewish” emblazoned across their chests. 

These moments may not be crucial in themselves. But in addition to doing good, seeds are sewn. A child from that fishing village, who took a picture standing beside a rabbi with a kippah, may grow up to have influence in Thailand. A lesbian activist, who heard a judge in our group talk about presiding over the same-sex wedding of her own daughter in the United States, may feel less starkly alone. In many of the nations where AJWS works, from Chad to Cambodia to Burma to Haiti, this may be the only time people see a Jew in the flesh. And they see we are there to help them. In the metaphor of Piju, our Thai guide, translator and a member of the staff of AJWS, we were not fireworks who burn bright and then vanish. On subsequent visits, years later, people still ask after those whom they have met. 

For the guides and hotel staff, (who miraculously created a challah following pictures on Google) an image of our Shabbat celebration — from candles to Birkat ha-Mazon to Havdalah in the humid night — serves as a mental image of the beauty of our tradition. 

Of course ambassadorship, however precious, is not ultimately the point. To do good for instrumental reasons is politics, not mitzvah. AJWS is there to help organizations that are fighting for the rights of the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the scared, the lost, the thwarted, the abused. The index of a society’s health all across the world is in its treatment of women, one of the pillars of AJWS activism. An impressive and persistent theme throughout the trip was that many of the groups we met with chose women as their spokespeople. We met a lawyer who came to speak to our dinner with her husband and daughter. When asked why she pushes against the government to secure land rights, a woman known by the nickname Thik said, “I decided I did not want to be a lawyer; I wanted to make law.” To encourage her and amplify her voice is to change the world for the better.

Working with 500 NGOs in 19 countries, the individual donations from AJWS are small. But to a struggling group, these grants of anywhere from $15,000 to about $25,000 can be the difference between advocacy and oblivion. Saving a single life is saving a world, the Rabbis remind us. It is not much, in the scheme of our good fortune, when there are so many worlds to save. As Ruth Messinger likes to say, “We cannot retreat to the convenience of being overwhelmed.”

Naam, from Southern Farmers Alliance, summed it up this way: “If I don’t start, then others won’t follow, so it has to be me.” Somewhere along the way, the alchemy of intimacy changed all of us. We began, “I see you”; moved to, “I feel for you”; and ended, “I’m with you.” Turns out Hineni can be said in every language on God’s good earth.

David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple. You can follow his teachings at facebook/RabbiWolpe.

Torah Portion: Pagan inspiration

“Beware of being lured into their ways … Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did those nations worship their gods? I too will follow the same practices!’” (Deuteronomy 12:30).

I am struck by this verse from our parasha, because I have benefited greatly from other people’s religious practices. My ability to do teshuvah has been transformed by a style of meditation that I learned from Buddhists, and tai chi has taught me how to bring my body into davening.

My experience is far from unique. Judaism has a rich tradition of “borrowing” from non-Jews.

What is more quintessentially Jewish than the Pesach seder? Yet learning while drinking multiple cups of wine directly mimics of the Greek symposium, which predates the seder by several hundred years. The Hebrew word afikomen is based on epikomen, Greek for “that which comes after.”

Another example: The great Jewish philosophic work, Maimonides’ “The Guide for the Perplexed,” is an explicit attempt to integrate the neo-Greek philosophy and science of his time into Judaism. Living in Egypt, Maimonides wrote in Arabic, and he specifically refers to the Muslim philosophers he debated.

But even if tapping other traditions to inform one’s Jewish practice is legitimate, it’s not always advisable. Simply taking a Buddhist prayer and praying it in Hebrew, for instance, or adopting a Buddhist idea like “the interconnectedness of all life” without critically asking if it’s really compatible with Jewish monotheism, threatens the cultural and theological coherence of Judaism.

Since I study with non-Jewish teachers of spirituality, I face this problem often. I remember standing in a meadow with a Native American teacher as he demonstrated a Four Winds ceremony, urging us to throw tobacco and pray in the four directions. “I can’t do this,” I thought. “This is pagan.”

Adapting other people’s ways to Judaism is fairly easy when form trumps substance, such as the rabbis “Judaicizing” of the Greek symposium. Whereas the Greeks used the symposium to debate philosophy, Jews rehearsed their history. Whereas the afikomen signaled the beginning of an extended desert course for the Greeks, it means the “last bite of the meal” for Jews.

It is much harder when it comes to integrating spiritual truths and philosophical ideas into Judaism. Maimonides critically engaged Greek thought, and the result is a rich, philosophical work. He agrees and disagrees with Aristotle and creatively moves Judaism forward. Many of his innovative ideas, controversial at the time, were rejected by Ashkenazi rabbis. Yet, today he is venerated by all, and no one doubts the Jewish authenticity of his thought.

So, how does one decide when it’s “kosher” to learn from others?

I don’t have room here to make the full argument, but I will share my conclusion. Judaism is a comprehensive set of rituals, values and theological/cultural norms that developed in communal/covenantal context over time. All are essential components of a flourishing Jewish people and healthy Jewish identity. The test of importing a new idea or practice into Judaism is whether or not it integrates into the Jewish narrative as it unfolds over time.

To say shalom instead of om at the end of a yoga routine is nice. But when that’s the extent of your Jewish practice, it’s shallow. Authentic, spiritual practice is rooted, roots us, makes ethical demands, challenges us as well as makes us feel good, and pervades every aspect of our lives. That a non-Jewish practice avoids conflict with Jewish norms is not enough, even if one does it at the local Jewish community center.

But when yoga deepens one’s relationship with God and enriches one’s observance of mitzvot by creating experiences and teaching skills that enhance one’s Jewish practice, it is a welcome supplement.

As I stood in that meadow, feeling an instinctive “this isn’t Jewish” feeling, I suddenly remembered Sukkot. I’d been praying in the four directions — with formerly pagan fertility symbols in my hands, no less — all my life. Once I was open to it, I found the Native American ritual to be spiritually productive, connecting me to God’s creation in new and fruitful ways.

But could I pray like a Native American with Jewish integrity?

After study and thought, here is what I did. I “Judaicized” the prayers with language I learned from the Jewish mystical tradition, careful to avoid praying to anything other than the Holy One. Even though there is ample precedent in the ancient Temple rites for ritually offering tobacco, it conflicts with the Jewish norms and narrative of our time. So I dropped it. My offering is words of prayer.

Now the Sukkot ritual has deeper meaning for me. And by praying in the four directions, I engage God through connection with the Earth all year round, which, in this time of global warming, brings the ethical demands of protecting the planet higher into my consciousness.

Our parasha ends with the call to worship at the Temple. As long as we always come home to Jerusalem, with practical wisdom and critical thinking, the encounter with other spiritual paths will often prove fruitful.

Rabbi Mike Comins is the founder of the TorahTrek Center for Jewish Wilderness Spirituality (torahtrek.org) and the author of “Making Prayer Real: Leading Jewish Spiritual Voices on Why Prayer Is Difficult and What to Do About It” (Jewish Lights Publishing, makingprayerreal.com) and “A Wild Faith: Jewish Ways Into Wilderness, Wilderness Ways Into Judaism”(Jewish Lights Publishing).

Buddha in Auschwitz

It sounds like the set-up for a politically incorrect joke: Did you hear the one about the journalist who began his journey in the Buddha’s

footsteps in Poland?

The Buddha (“the awakened one”) never stepped foot west of what is now India. I was on assignment for National Geographic Magazine, supposedly tracing Buddhism’s history. But what was I doing in Oswiecim, in the southwest corner of Poland?

It might make more sense knowing the German name by which Oswiecim is better recognized: Auschwitz. If the connection is still not evident, consider the first of Buddhism’s so-called Four Noble Truths — that the human condition is rife with suffering. Then where better (or worse, as the case may be) to stare into the face of horrific suffering of a magnitude that numbs the heart and paralyzes the brain? Where better, hopefully, to come to terms with it?

I had joined up with a Buddhist group that conducts annual Bearing Witness retreats at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camps, now a memorial museum, as a way to gain a deeper understanding of suffering and one’s own reaction to it.

My worst nightmare was that just seeing the wooden watch towers, the barbed-wire fences and the sadly iconic brick gateway would cause me unbearable suffering. I feared sitting cross-legged on those infamous train tracks, silently meditating in the Soto Zen Buddhist tradition under a polluted, monotonic gray sky.

The nightmare was realized, and then some. But another “truth” slapped me harder in the face: the truth of my Polish heritage (my mother’s parents were born in Poland). Being a Polish American was not something one boasted about when I was growing up. For most of my youth I thought “dumb Pollack” was one word. It’s a fact of my life I rarely acknowledge, but here there was nowhere to hide.

It hit hardest in a large chamber the Nazis called the Sauna, where prisoners were disinfected. Now the concrete flooring is covered with highly reflective tinted glass. Several exhibit walls display salvaged pictures: sepia tones of families whose prominent noses and high cheekbones reminded me of my own relatives.

We gathered in a semicircle on the glass floor and sat facing a wall of such photos. We were each handed a different page with a list of names and simultaneously we read from our list.

“Israelevitch, Abraham. Israels, Salomon. Issakowitsch, Alexandre….” I naturally fell into a familiar Hebraic rhythm of incantation. One name overlapping the next, one voice harmonizing with another, all bouncing off the empty walls, a chorus of death.

A bell rang and we sat in silence, but the names still echoed in my ears. In the Soto tradition, you sit with eyes open, faced down. My stare landed on a reflected photo of a fair-haired woman in her 20s, clutching her two children. In her 20s, my mother, too, was a blonde beauty with a strong jaw and a distinctive nose, a Meryl Streep look-alike from the film of William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice.” Suddenly it dawned on me: we bear witness not only to those who died here but also to those who never got to live, the unborn children and those children’s unborn children. History may have lost undiscovered medical cures, unwritten novels and unscored musical masterpieces, but I lost experiences, love, wisdom passed from generation to generation. I had no memories upon which to reflect.

Rather than get angrier or go numb, this time I felt an inexplicable release from it all. I had reached that path to forgiveness only when, in meditation, I was able to separate “me” from me. By staying focused on this moment, I could separate two experiences: what happened here and my reaction to what happened here. By simply bearing witness, without layering it with my feelings, my opinion, my reaction, my judgment, I saw that the Holocaust just happened. No blame. No sadness. No guilt. No anger.

That evening I told others on the retreat about my liberation from so many hellish thoughts and feelings. I was surprised but relieved that some nodded in agreement.

“I feel more alive here than anywhere else,” confided Aleksandra, a 24-year-old photography student from Wroclaw, Poland. This was her second Bearing Witness retreat, she told me.

“How could you feel more alive?” I asked, incredulous. “Surrounded by death at every step? How could that be?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.

And she left it at that.

This answer perplexed and frustrated me. Was this a cop-out? Or was she practicing what Buddhists call the “don’t-know mind” — that there are things we can never understand, that make sense only when we stop trying to understand them.

I don’t know about the don’t-know mind. I do know that I had three choices. One was to remain angry and revengeful, which only generates more pain. The second was to run and hide from those feelings — impossible! The third was to accept them as an incomprehensible part of the life spectrum. In that third way, I, too, could “feel more alive.”

It was a difficult lesson — for a Jew, for a Pole, for a journalist who thinks he needs answers — and I honestly still haven’t mastered it. For now, though, I assuage my suffering with the Buddha’s own words: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Perry Garfinkel will be speaking on July 8 at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore on Melrose at 7:30 p.m. and on July 9 at DIESEL in Malibu at 2 p.m. The Bodhi Tree Bookstore is located at 8585 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, (310)-659-1733. DIESEL is located at 3890 Cross Creek Road, Malibu (310) 456-9961.

Perry Garfinkel is the author of “Buddha or Bust: In Search of Truth, Meaning, Happiness and the Man Who Found Them All,” to be published June 20 by Harmony Books, from which this is adapted.


A Day in Shul with the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet sits before the towering ark in Sinai Temple’s main sanctuary. With humor, grace and wisdom, he has just addressed 2,000 admirers this Monday morning. Now, it is time for questions.

“What is Buddhism?” the interpreter reads from a card collected from the audience. “Tell us, as in the story of Hillel, as if you are on one foot.”

The Dalai Lama tilts his head to one side. “Hmmmm,” he says, then, his deep voice raising an octave or two, “Buddhism is Buddhism.”

He erupts into giggles, his shoulders hunched forward and his head bouncing, as he delights in this joke with his audience.

But he is quick, and he doesn’t let the moment pass. He takes his cue from Rabbi David Wolpe, who told the famous Hillel story when he welcomed the internationally beloved Tibetan monk into his sanctuary.

When a man came to the Mishnaic sage, Hillel, and asked to learn the whole Torah while on one foot, Hillel answered. “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.”

The Dalai Lama’s answer is as deceptively simple as Hillel’s: “If you can, help others. If not, do no harm.”

The formula seems so basic, and indeed, much of the Dalai Lama’s wisdom imparted at this Westside synagogue this morning is straightforward: Self-confidence, with wisdom and awareness, is the key to happiness. Tolerance and compassion are signs of strength. No matter what ethnicity or religion, what size or shape, we are all the same.

At times it is hard to hear exactly what he is saying, as his words — sometimes in English with a thick accent, sometimes in Tibetan through a translator — get muffled.

But somehow, his wisdom hits listeners with stunning clarity. The message comes as much from the earnest cadence of his words as through his demeanor. He is unassuming and heroic all at once, his humility not fake, yet his greatness not diminished.

He is at one time both venerable and adorable.

What is most clear is that while he carries a tragic history of exile and persecution, this is a man who has mastered serenity.

It is an odd amalgam of people here to behold the Dalai Lama this morning. Pointy black polyester kippahs, provided by Sinai Temple, sit on the heads of Tibetan monks and American priests. Mystics in flowing skirts and flowery jewelry are interspersed among middle-aged, middle-class temple members.

No religion, philosophy or culture is left unrepresented.

Many in this audience are long-time followers of the Dalai Lama. This gathering was initially conceived of as a “thank you” to organizers, participants and hosts of the World Festival of Sacred Music, the 84-concert series held in L.A. this week. The festival, coordinated by the Dalai Lama’s Foundation for Universal Responsibility and Tibet House, New Delhi, was inspired by a speech the Dalai Lama made saying music can bridge cultural gaps and help bring about global harmony. Sinai Cantor David Silverstein performed at one of the festival venues, and Sinai hosted some concerts.

Once this gathering was opened to the public, Sinai members and curious Westsiders came flocking to hear the words of a man who is a best-selling author and spiritual guide to millions.

Conversing with Jews is nothing new for the Dalai Lama. Aside from the many Buddhists who were born Jews, other practicing Jews are admirers of his philosophy, oriented around personal fulfillment and what Jewish tradition refers to as Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world.

In the past decade, he has often held dialogues with Jews, most notably an encounter with a Jewish delegation from North America in 1990 at his residence in Dharamsala, India, as recorded by Rodger Kamenetz in his book, “The Jew in the Lotus.”

He spoke a few years ago at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and this week alone appeared at Sinai, Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Stephen S. Wise — and not at any churches.

Despite essential religious disparities between Judaism and Buddhism, there has been much mutual empathy — and admiration — between the Dalai Lama and the Jewish community. Both know too much about holding a faith together through exile and persecution.

The Dalai Lama touched on that in his Sinai speech, saying that his exile from Tibet in 1959 has made him a stronger, better person.

“There is no time to pretend that everything is O.K.,” he told a nodding audience. “You are too busy dealing with reality.”

Being in Diaspora has also allowed him to learn from other cultures, to spread his message to the world. He sees a great need for inter-ethnic dialogue, as there are immense benefits that come from knowing about others’ traditions, about the common ground that unites us.

He spoke of his great admiration for the way the Jewish community teaches its children through celebration and festivities, passing on the tradition using joy rather than fear.

As The Dalai Lama sat before the packed sanctuary, the scene is at once familiar and foreign. The kippahs that rested on his head matched his maroon and saffron robes. To his sides, flower arrangements of the same color scheme adorned the bimah. It all came together like a well planned bar mitzvah.

And, in fact, the mood was festive. Sinai’s choir welcomed the Tibetan monk with “Baruch Haba,” the song that welcomes a couple under the marriage canopy. Rabbi Mark Fasman impressed even seasoned shul-goers with a stunningly long tekia from the spiraling shofar.

Rabbi Wolpe, Sinai President Jimmy Delshad and Cantor David Silverstein, who planned the Sinai event, wrapped themselves in kataks, long, white silk scarves presented to them by the Dalai Lama. The scarves look like tallises minus the fringes and stripes.

And with his constant flow of smiles, giggles and dainty bows, His Holiness managed to keep the mood downright haimische.

And yet, the joyous atmosphere did nothing to detract from the glorious impact of the day.

As the Dalai Lama finished speaking, his words, still lingering in the high-ceilinged sanctuary, found further flight in the performance that closed the event. Nawang Khechog, described as the foremost musician of Tibet, took the Dalai Lama’s words upon the notes of his Tibetan flute and brought them to lofty heights. His clear, soulful notes wafted from the hollowed out bamboo, conjuring images of holy men calling from mountaintop to mountaintop, of the wind carrying their words to regions beyond.

It was a powerful finish to a powerful experience. That it was musical was only fitting, as it was music — and the peace, harmony and understanding it could bring — that brought this diverse group together in the first place.