In an evening of celebration of the work and legacy of the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington, the 40th annual Interfaith Concert featured performances from seven different faith traditions with song, dance, and music at Washington Hebrew Congregation on Nov. 14. 

The Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington also honored Dr. Siva Subramanian, a professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University's School of Medicine and chief of neonatology and ethicist at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, with the 2019 Interfaith Leadership Award. He is also the founder of the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Maryland, and co-founder of the Council of Hindu Temples of North America.

“Now more than ever the work in the IFC is so critical to all of us,” Rabbi Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation, said. “In a world where hate speech and acts of violence against religious institutions and people of faith have increased, it is more important now than ever that we come together under the umbrella of the IFC.”

Among the seven groups performing were Soulfire, a Christian praise band from Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington, Virginia; Kolot HaLev, a Jewish community choir based in Chevy Chase, Maryland; Sacred Heart Parish and School Youth Choir, a Roman Catholic children’s group from Washington, D.C.; Muvva Kuchipudi School of Hindu Dance, a Hindu children's dance group from Howard County, Maryland; Tristate Carnatic Group, a classical Indian music group; Sikh Kirtani Jatha of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, a Sikh music group; and Heritage Signature Chorale, an African-American choir based in Washington. At both the beginning and end of the concert, all groups came together in song. 

The Shrine of the Sacred Heart Parish and School children's choir performed a selection of songs celebrating linguistic diversity with Spanish and English at the Interfaith Concert at Washington Hebrew Congregation. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj) 

“I believe deeply in the power of sound to connect us,” Amber Kahn, the master of ceremonies, said. “From the sacred chants, to the vibrations we create with our bodies in movement, expressed differently across traditions, languages and tribes. These sounds that represent what we hold sacred can connect us, bringing us closer to understanding and celebrating the other.” 

Kahn, who is the host of the podcast “Inspired,” a production of Interfaith Voices, shared that her interest in interfaith work began at a young age, as a Muslim girl attending Catholic school who was often asked to share her beliefs. 

“That experience sometimes was scary, but really sparked curiosity and a genuine excitement when I had the opportunity to share and see that while someone may not agree with me, they learned a little bit about me,” Kahn said. “And it instilled a sense that I, too, belonged in our diverse religious landscape.”

Presenting the leadership award to Subramanian, Dr. Stephen Ray Mitchell, dean of medical education at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, said Subramanian has served the community in “spiritual, scientific, and loving service” for 45 years. 

“The light within your heart responded to the light within (Subramanian). God is in Siva’s heart, regardless of your road to get there, that’s what matters,” Mitchell said. 

As the current Hindu vice-president of the Interfaith Council, Subramanian has served the larger religious community in several ways for the past few decades. In receiving the Interfaith Leadership Award, he shared his gratitude for the support of many in the audience whom he said had supported him throughout the years. 

In closing, he advised the crowd to “think deeply, speak gently, love much... work hard, give freely, and be kind.” 

The Muvva Kuchipudi School of Hindu Dance performs an Indian classical dance at the Interfaith Concert at the Washington Hebrew Congregation. (CS Photo/Andrew Biraj) 

Rabbi Gerry Serotta, executive director of Interfaith Council, closed the evening in a blessing uniting the community under God.

“Let us pray that we can learn from the truths of every faith and thereby create the world as God intended,” Serotta said. “We are all faiths but one human family. May our presence here this evening contribute to hope and healing in our world.”