Interfaith work

For over forty years, Jill has used her musical work as an interfaith bridge. She strongly believes that such work is vital in building bonds between people, whatever their private theological or spiritual beliefs. “People often fear what they don’t know, or don’t realise even that their attitudes are based on misinformation. It’s crucial to inform people. There’s always much more in common — simply as human beings — than the extreme elements in various faiths would have us believe,” Jill has been known to say.

In December 1991, Jill and a fellow New Zealander, the late harpist Geoff Haimes, gave a moving concert of Christmas songs from many countries at the St Andrews Memorial Church in Jerusalem. Among the attendees — many of them, like Jill, Jews who grew up in various countries surrounded by Christian culture — was a revered rabbi and Talmud scholar. Jill considered his presence, and his evident enjoyment of the music, a true vindication of the power of music to overcome man-made barriers.

On her tours in various countries, she has sung and played not only in Reform, Conservative and Orthodox synagogues, Hebrew schools and Jewish community centres, but also in churches, chapels, and community centres and schools associated with various streams of Christianity. In Israel, she was associated for 25 years with St Andrew’s Memorial Church in Jerusalem, where she gave many concerts and contributed to special events.

In 2008, she gave a fundraising concert in Wellington, New Zealand for the newly-formed youth chapter of the International Council of Christians and Jews, YALCA. One of her daughters was instrumental (no pun intended) in forming this youth chapter and including young Muslims in the organisation as well. (See the review below.)

Between 2002 and 2007, she gave a series of concerts in small villages outside of Prague, to raise funds for restoring the organ of a 17th-century Catholic chapel. In 2010, 2012, and 2014, Jill was also invited to give concerts of Jewish music from around the world at the St Wenceslas Festival of Sacred Arts in Prague. All of these recitals took place at the beautiful Sephardic Synagogue in the heart of Prague.

In April 2013, Jill gave a series of short recitals at Christ Church, in the Old City of Jerusalem during their annual charity fair. Every hour on the hour, for the five hours of the celebration, Jill sang and played in the beautiful acoustics of the shady church, and shoppers rested their feet and cooled themselves while enjoying the music.

In December 2013, Jill presented a revised version of her 1991 concert program of Christmas carols and New Year songs from around the world. This was originally supposed to take place at Christ Church (Jerusalem), but the harsh snow storm in December put paid to these plans. Instead, she gave the concert in a private home in Jerusalem, and it was attended by a mix of Jewish and Christian people, both local residents and visitors from overseas.

She gave another version of this program in December 2016, also at a private residence in Jerusalem.

In the (northern hemisphere) summer of 2018, Jill presented a new concert program, Secret Journeys of the Soul, in  a 12th-century chapel in the Swedish countryside as part of a concert series. This program, the result of several years  of research and preparation, presented spiritual, liturgical, and para-liturgical music (Christian and Jewish) from Ireland to ancient Palestine, and from North Africa to Scandinavia.

Jill intends to continue with this work wherever and whenever she can.

Review of Jill’s concert for YALCA:
New Zealand Jewish Chronicle, April 2008
Abrahamic initiative brings youth together
by Laura McQuillan, Massey School of Journalism

“Tree of Life”, an interfaith fundraising concert encompassing all three Abrahamic cultures, was held in Wellington last month by the Young Abrahamic Leadership Council of Australasia(YALCA).

The concert featured Kiwi-born, Israel-based singer-songwriter Jill Rogoff who performed a number of songs from different Abrahamic cultures, as well as from New Zealand. Jill has toured countries around the world, including the USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and released six solo albums.

People from all three faiths attended the event, including a representative of the Iranian Embassy and Professor Paul Morris, head of Victoria University’s School of Religious Studies.

YALCA New Zealand director Tal Rogoff — Jill’s daughter — described the atmosphere as “one of excitement, pride, joy and enthusiasm”. Tal says “Tree of Life” was a “resounding success”, and the organisers are hoping to run another similar event next year.

Hosted by YALCA and HUMAN FM at the Victoria University Anglican Chaplaincy, “Tree of Life” raised money to start YALCA’s funds for educational materials and to send delegates to upcoming forums, says Tal.

YALCA was formed out of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) conference held in Sydney in July 2007 and aims to bring the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities together through interfaith dialogue.

Illumination from the Spanish manuscript Cantigas de Santa Maria, written in the 13th century