Doing Good In Israel

In The Spotlight with The Polyphony Foundation - No Boundaries In Nazareth

Polyphony(n) [puh-lif-uh-nee]: The act of simultaneously combining a number of parts, each forming an individual melody and harmonizing with each other.

We are all connected in this life. By helping each other we create a society that we can be proud of. By working together using the power of music there are no boundaries that can separate us.

I've had the pleasure to travel all over the world. With the Grateful Dead as well as my own band and other projects. On one of my trips - I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with students in Israel as part of a wonderful program. With all the darkness in the world today I wanted to share this story of healing and bringing people together. Take a listen to the music we created together here.

Watch me and my guests Branford Marsalis and Eric Revis create conenction through music with the students here. We were in Israel together back in 2013.
Excited to share the stage with Branford again coming up at Lockn' with Dead & Company.

Since 2006 the Polyphony Foundation has connected over 25,000 Arab and Jewish children through music. Their mission is to help bridge the divide and foster a more civil society by bringing them together in a new way. Today’s world is in great need of new approaches to bridging divides and building community. Polyphony is committed to expanding its innovative approach for social transformation in Israel so that tens of thousands more young people can discover common ground with each other and develop as civic leaders. In doing so, they bring hope to families and communities and lay the foundation for a peaceful future.

What they discovered is that the activity of making, sharing and appreciating music brings Arab and Jewish children together in groundbreaking new ways. Through music, young people discover their common tastes and dreams, build a new kind of relationship and begin to see new possibilities for themselves and their communities.

The foundation of Polyphony was laid when Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, then a young professional violinist with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, saw the need to connect his Arab community to classical music, a genre beloved by millions the world over. At the time, Nabeel’s hometown of Nazareth, an Arab-majority city had no music training opportunities and almost no afterschool development programs for young people in the arts or sports (a situation which remains to this day).

“Music enables young people to create something beautiful together that needs commitment—to music and to each other.” — Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, Co-founder of Polyphony

Nabeel asked Daniel Barenboim, co-founder of the Orchestra and world-famous conductor, to help him bring his dream to life. Barenboim agreed and secured seed money for the project. In 2006, Nabeel left behind his music career and life in Germany and returned to Nazareth to launch the Barenboim-Said Conservatory with its first 25 students. Inspired by Nabeel’s vision, four Jewish musicians signed on to give lessons, commuting 90 minutes each way to and from Tel Aviv.

In 2011, Craig and Deborah Cogut, two Jewish-American social entrepreneurs, were introduced to Nabeel. They were moved by his passion and dedication to social transformation. In 2012, the three of them launched the foundation to bring together Arab and Jewish children in Israel by offering them equal opportunities in music.

“What Polyphony is doing is so needed—in Israel and in the world today. People need new ways of coming together across diffCraig Cogut, co-founder of Polyphonyerences and divides. Music creates an inclusive and participatory environment. Everyone in Polyphony’s rooms, concert halls and hallways can feel they belong. That’s powerful.”  — Craig Cogut, co-founder of Polyphony

Polyphony Education, headed by Nabeel, comprises all the music programming in Israel, and Polyphony Foundation, led by President Rick Hobish, leads the fundraising efforts in the U.S. With the formidable support of like-minded partners and donors across the world, we continue to grow in reach and impact.

Today, Polyphony is the fastest-growing music program in Israel, supported by popular international musicians like David Broza, Branford Marsalis, Ian Anderson, Zubin Mehta and Renée Fleming. 

Learn more about the important work they're doing.
You can support their mission to empower more young people through music by donating here.