October 19, 2019

Pico-union hope

A shofar blasted as Cantor Tannoz Bahremand of Stephen S. Wise Temple stepped into the historic downtown sanctuary, raising her voice in prayer as she walked from the back of the pews, down an aisle packed with people, toward the bimah of the newly founded Pico Union Project. The cantor’s haunting song was answered by the equally vibrant chant of a Muslim call to prayer, sung from the front of the sanctuary by Ben Youcef of the Islamic Center of Southern California.

Soon after, the crowd stood as the magnificent organ built into a balcony above the holy space announced a new day: “Shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higyanu lazman hazeh.” With this prayer of thanks for new experiences, familiar to the many Jews gathered for this urban multifaith Passover celebration, a dream of renewal and reunion had begun. 

As the singing quieted, Aryell Cohen, music director at Sinai Temple and the organist for this day, stood up from his perch and turned to the gathering, stopping the proceedings to announce: “This is the first time there’s been Hebrew sung and accompanied by the organ in this space since 1925.” 

It was a goose-bumps moment. To be in the midst of a Jewish-led renewal in a neighborhood Jews abandoned long ago. To be part of a Passover celebration sharing song and stories and prayer with people from throughout Los Angeles, people of all faiths who will be welcomed into this space for myriad community events, both religious and secular.  

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