The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Jewish Observer

Promise Sessions Project Aims to Bring Healing Through Music to Israeli Soldiers

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Israeli country music artist Omer Netzer will participate in the Promise Sessions and will appear at the community-wide Yom Ha’atzmaut festival on May 19th.

"Born from personal loss, unwavering hope, and a love for music, The Promise Sessions is a Nashville-based global music platform where artists join hands to create a symphony of unity. Local and international talents raise their voices together, celebrating the rich tapestry of the Promised Land. Through music, we bridge divides, mend hearts, and foster a brighter tomorrow." From the Promise Sessions website. 

In the nearly seven months since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel, many people have felt drawn to help. For Israeli born Yossi Amit and his wife Natasha, both musicians living in Nashville, the desire was very personal. “October 7th changed everything,” says Yossi, “My sister in Ashkelon was evacuated, and we lost some members of our extended family.”  

In the aftermath, a plan began to take shape that naturally included the use of music. “We had just had people over for Sukkot and it was a very musical celebration,” says Yossi, “It was such a special day with everyone playing different instruments.” And then suddenly, everything changed. Yossi says, “I was thinking about how divisive everything had been in Israel, and four days later, everything became even more horrific.”  

The pair began to formulate an idea for using music to help Israeli soldiers and victims of terror heal. Coincidentally, Rabbi Saul Strosberg of Congregation Sherith Israel, was thinking along the same lines. “I was thinking about what Nashville’s unique contribution could be to what’s going on in Israel,” he says. He had just returned from a visit to Boca Raton where he’d learned that the Jewish community there was bringing Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers to town for counseling in the aftermath of October 7. Strosberg says an idea came to him. “I thought that we’re Music City. We should bring soldiers here to record some songs and give them some PTSD care.”  

Strosberg and the Amits all participated in the Israel rally in Washington, DC, where they began to formulate a plan. “At the DC rally I told Rabbi Saul my idea, and he took it to the next level,” says Yossi. The next level included participation by Patricia Heaton and Elizabeth Dorros, founders of O7C, a grassroots Christian group formed in the aftermath of October 7, to provide support for Israel and the Jewish community in Nashville. Heaton says, “Rabbi Saul was the first person in the Jewish community that I reached out to, and we immediately hit it off. He told me what he wanted to do and I thought it was absolutely perfect because music is what Nashville is known for.” Heaton says she learned Sherith has a vibrant musical community and that the congregation is building a recording studio in one of its unused rooms.  

The program, which Yossi named The Promise Sessions, has evolved to include three primary elements. The first, called Nashvoices, plans to partner Israeli musicians with local artists to create and perform original songs.  

One of the first to participate is local artist Omer Netzer, who says he is the first, and only, Israeli country artist. He moved to the United States to pursue his music career, and when the October 7 terrorist attack happened, he returned to fight in the reserves to help defend Israel. He is looking forward to the Promise Sessions being a means to heal. “I know what it’s like to sacrifice everything for Israel. And I know what it’s like to share my story as a musician,” he says. Netzer also believes his work as an artist can serve as a connector. “This is bigger than me,” he says, “I can be a bridge between people who grew up on country music but don’t know anything about Israel.” He is slated to perform at The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville’s Yom Ha’atzmaut festival to be held later this month.  

The second element of The Promise Sessions, called Nasheal, is a plan that includes respite, therapy, and other healing services to soldiers and other victims of terror. And the third element is called Nashama focused on honoring fallen soldiers who have left behind unfinished music. The idea is for local artists to complete those songs. Heaton says just thinking about this aspect of the project makes her emotional, “We can’t imagine what those families are going through and to be able to have that gift is just beyond.” 

The project is turning out to be a collaboration between what appear to be unlikely partners. But Natasha says that is precisely the point. “Regardless of religious affiliation, or no affiliation, music is the only thing that can bridge gaps that can’t be bridged any other way.” And despite the tragedy of October 7, Heaton says “O7C was born out of a really troubled time. But it’s so nice to be able to have opportunities to celebrate and be creative and create something beautiful out of tragedy.” 

In addition to being a bridge between people, Natasha says she wants The Promise Sessions to serve as a way of educating about Israel and the Jewish people. “I want to combat the disinformation and gather understanding and solidarity for the people of Israel,” she says. Both Yossi and Natasha plan to build The Promise Sessions into something sustainable for the long term. In addition to the recording sessions, there are plans for a documentary and a mini-series. “We want something with longevity,” says Yossi.  

 

To learn more about The Promise Sessions, email promisessions@gmail.com. 

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