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Black Tie International:
The Polyphony Foundation

The Polyphony Foundation,



Young Arab and Jewish Musicians Showcase Music’s Power to Transcend Cultural Boundaries Offering Hope for Israel’s Future


The Polyphony Foundation—an organization dedicated to using the power of classical music to bridge the divide between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel—will host performances by four young Arab and Jewish musicians comprising The Polyphony Quartet on Thursday, May 28 at 7:00 p.m. at All Souls Church in New York City.  The quartet will feature two Arab and two Jewish musicians from Israel—Feras Machour (viola, age 19); Revital Bendersky (violin, age 18); Mahdi Saadi (cello, age 20); and Shir Hayat (violin, age 19).  The quartet is prepared under the direction of violinist and Polyphony Foundation Co-Founder / Artistic Director, Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar


The evening’s program will include works for quartet by celebrated classical masters, including Dvořák’s String Quartet no.12 in F major, op.96, "American" and Mozart’s Quartet no.14 in G Major k.387, “Spring” alongside works by renowned Arab-Israeli composers Paul Ben-Haim and Taiseer Haddad that reflect the cultures of the two musicians and showcase how the two cultures have influenced each other.  The program will also include a brief discussion and Q&A between Abboud-Ashkar and the Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich, Senior Minister at All Souls Church, about Polyphony and the important work that the organization is doing in Israel. 


Polyphony’s multi-tiered programming structure offers music instruction and performance opportunities for youth of all ages, including a music appreciation program for kindergarten and elementary school students, youth orchestras and mixed ensembles, a semi-professional conservatory, residencies and an emerging professional orchestra.


“These young musicians and students are a shining example of how quickly the boundaries that separate us disappear when we look closely at our common humanity, said Abboud-Ashkar. “Students participating in Polyphony’s programs learn not only to appreciate and perform this music, but they also learn to appreciate, and see the humanity of ‘the other’ while building lasting friendships.  We are honored to share this experience of bringing our music and our message to audiences in New York City.” 


Celebrated soprano and Polyphony Artistic Advisory Board member, Renée Fleming notes, "Polyphony accomplishes what once seemed impossible, with groundbreaking programs that foster understanding and concord through music."


The Polyphony Foundation was founded by Deborah and Craig Cogut (Founder and CEO of Pegasus Capital Advisors) in partnership with Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar in 2011 as a result of their common goal of creating a cultural experience that would stimulate intercultural dialogue and understanding in Israel.  In less than five years, the organization has grown to reach over 6,000 students, train over 140 local teachers, and create partnerships on the ground that are slowly changing the long existing practices that lead to segregation.  Polyphony runs year-round educational programs for kindergarten through professional level students, and hosts concerts that specifically target Arab and Jewish communities and audiences in Israel.


In addition to the performance at All Souls Church, The Polyphony Quartet will also perform as part of the JCC’s Annual Benefit at Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 26 and at a private fundraiser in New York City on May 27.


About The Polyphony Foundation

The Polyphony Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the divide between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel by creating a common ground where young people come together around classical music.  By educating both the performer and the audience in the art of listening and communicating, Polyphony seeks to further the development of a just and dynamic civil society in Israel. Polyphony’s programs aim to equally educate and expose Arab and Jewish youth to classical music, and to the music of ‘the other,’ as well as to create equal opportunities for musical training, and to facilitate joint professional music-making.  These programs work to transform the lives of students, families, institutions and communities by creating opportunities for engagement, dialogue, partnerships, and lasting integration. 


About All Souls

One of the leading Unitarian Universalist congregations in the nation, All Souls has become a well-known sanctuary for spiritual seekers of all persuasions. For nearly two centuries, intellectually curious and socially engaged New Yorkers have gathered at All Souls to contemplate the mystery of the divine, interpret the wisdom of religion, and explore the insights of science. Genuinely welcoming and broadly inclusive, the congregation’s tradition of advocacy and activism places it at the forefront of efforts to make our community and our world more equal and more just.


Reverend Galen Guengerich is Senior Minister of All Souls. He is author of God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age and writes a column on “The Search for Meaning” for, as well as writing occasionally for Huffington Post, Washington Post, and, among other media. An active public advocate for the evidence-based practice of religion, Rev. Guengerich is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he focuses on how traditional religious beliefs and practices, both in the US and abroad, usually reinforce patriarchy to the detriment of women and democracy. In January 2012, he was part of a 15-member delegation of senior clergy from New York City to visit Israel and the West Bank, the first such delegation to meet with a broad spectrum of religious and political leaders, including Shimon Peres, President of Israel, and Salem Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.


Program Information

Thursday, May 28 at 7:00 p.m.
Unitarian Church of All Souls
| 1157 Lexington Ave at 80th Street | New York, NY 10075 | 212-535-5530

THE POLYPHONY QUARTET – Performance, Discussion and Q&A

▪▪▪Mr. Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, Polyphony Foundation Co-Founder and Artistic Director

▪▪▪Ms. Revital Bendersky, Violin

▪▪▪Mr. Feras Machour, Viola

▪▪▪Mr. Mahdi Saadi, Cello

▪▪▪Ms. Shir Hayat, Violin


Antonín Dvořák                                    String Quartet no.12 in F major, op.96, "American"

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart               Quartet no.14 in G Major k.387, “Spring”

Paul Ben-Haim                                      Prelude for String Quartet

Taiseer Haddad                                    Middle Eastern Triology, “Bladyat”


Ticket Information
Tickets for the All Souls Church performance on May 28 can be purchased for $20 via Eventbrite by clicking here.  For information about the Polyphony Quartet’s appearance at the JCC Annual Benefit at Jazz at Lincoln Center, please click here.  For details about a private fundraising reception for the Polyphony Foundation, please contact


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