Social justice songs

The Cantors Assembly in the USA has a wonderful monthly online gathering called SongSwap, showcasing liturgical songs and songwriters, and the methods and songs of cantors working with congregations around the country. The theme for January 2023 was ‘Songs for Social Justice in Honour of Martin Luther King (MLK) Day’. Looking through my own catalogue, these are the songs that came to mind:

  • Im ein ani li (Avot 1:14) – “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
  • B’makom she’ein anashim (Avot 2:5) – “in place where there is no one to respond to the needs of the community, strive to help the community – in a place where there is no humanity, strive to bring humanity”
  • You have all been shown (Micah 6:8) – 2-part round. You can hear the full effect of it if you play from 1min 38secs. “You have all been shown what is good, and what God seeks from you. / Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” (Play from the start to hear the individual parts.)
  • “I believe in …” – Written on a wall by Jews hiding in a cellar in Cologne, during WW2, protected by the Catholic resistance: “I believe in the sun, even though all around be dark. / I believe in God, even though he be silent. / I believe in (neighbourly) love, even when love must hide.”
  • Oseh Shalom – set to the tune of a Ukrainian lullaby
  • Oseh Shalom No.2 – set to nusach from Yom Kippur musaf service
  • Oseh Shalom No. 3 – a livelier setting, 5 beats to a bar / measure
  • Shalom, Shalom (Is. 57:19) – “Peace, peace, when you are far, / however close you are.” / So speaks Havayah

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