Singing for Refugees


This program educated and enlightened attendees on refugees from around the world through song.




As conveyed in the last column, these weekday columns over the next couple of weeks will be based on the cultural events my wife and I are intending to attend in Canada. But, first, a sort of preview after attending an extraordinarily moving performance, once again at Ravinia in Chicago, as we prepared to leave.

This planned performance could not have been timelier, as it reflected our current and historical challenge of hosting refugees, whenever and wherever. In the United States, everyone comes from refugees, maybe even the Native Americans who first came here from somewhere.

Right now, many refugees are struggling to even find shelter as they are sent out of Texas after crossing our border. Those who make it to New York are getting housed at the reopened Roosevelt and other hotels, places that also took in Holocaust refugees after World War II.

The performance was curated and hosted by the dramaturg Cori Ellison, who provided commentary before each song section. The singers were from the summer educational program of the Steans Music Institute. As we know, music can reach the heart when words cannot.

The title was “‘Your Tired, Your Poor’: Migration in Song,” taking off from the Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty poem. The section titles of songs indicate the focus on culturally diverse refugees and immigrants, with their tragedies and triumphs:

  • How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?
  • To Wander Alone . . ..
  • My Heart Is Full of Sorrow and My Eyes Are Full of Tears
  • Where Our Dreams Lie Buried
  • No One to Welcome You Home
  • The Golden Land
  • Awed By the Work of Angels
  • Chased Out of Paradise
  • Wind That Blows Where I Cannot Go

You get the picture.

The last song we heard brought us right up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and all the Ukrainian refugees. It used satiric and therapeutic humor, which is often necessary to cope with such trauma. The song title is “Yet, Vladimir,” written anonymously, perhaps for safety reasons. It includes audience participation and a little dance. Some of the English translation includes:

"Ukraine, Ukraine

The Muscovite came to us again

He told Shoygu: We are going to the parade in Kyiv,

We will bring ‘Russian World’ to our beloved neighbors.

No, Vladimir, No Vladimir!

You lie to the whole world that you are ‘for peace’ . . .”

If we are compassionate healers, our hearts must beat for the refugees.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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