James Pollard, Jr. and Harold Messinger are co-founders and musical directors of the Interfaith Music Project. They have brought together musicians from several of Philadelphia's houses of worship, and organize ongoing collaborations and performances.
I've known Harold since 1993, when he was my boss at a Jewish summer camp in the Poconos of Northeastern Pennsylvania. In the intervening years, he became a cantor, moved away from and back to Philly, and co-founded the Interfaith Music Project with James. He's now cantor at Beth Am Israel congregation in Penn Valley, PA.
James, who does IT as a day job, is no stranger to liturgical music. His father, James Pollard, Sr., has led the Zion Baptist Church of Ardmore since 1970. His mother, Virginia Pollard, has been known as first lady of the church for just as long, and has run programs to combat food insecurity in surrounding neighborhoods, among many other initiatives.
Together with a wide variety of musicians, James and Harold have produced two albums: These Songs of Freedom, their first collaboration in 2011, and the more recent Of Love and Protest, a 2018 collection of 8 songs ranging from classical to funk. They turned one of these songs, “We Rise,” written by Batya Levine, into a video montage of scenes of repression and heroism in response to the intense racial justice conversations that swept the nation in the spring and summer of 2020.
Faced with the question of “What are we going to do to meet this moment?”, they responded, “Let's make some music.”
And music, as they point out in our conversation, is a great equalizer. It moves people without them needing to speak the same language or share the same cultural assumptions. When the music comes from a place of love, it elicits feelings of love in its listeners.
And the love and respect – deep friendship – that James and Harold share allow them to talk freely and frankly about challenging and important issues that connect – and have at times divided – the Jewish and Black communities.
From Jewish to gospel to rock to soul to funk, the Interfaith Music Project gives voice to love, passion, hope, and faith that tomorrow can be better than yesterday.
Safe in His Arms: a recording from the “Live at Zion” track when, in Harold's words, “the heavens parted”
You CAN Change Other People!
Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative new book of that title.
What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.
Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.
Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by . Click the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.
The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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