BUILDING BRIDGES Growing up Jewish in Paterson, NJ, I sometimes felt like a stranger in a strange land. That was especially true in public school, where we sang Christmas and Easter songs. We never sang Hanukkah or Passover songs; not even the fun ones that I imagine to have evil lyrics, like dai (pronounced die), da, yenu. Why would God ask a nice Jewish boy like me to sing the praises of Jesus? Eventually, I reasoned He must have wanted me to hone my musical skills at PS 26, but I wasn't totally comfortable with His decision. The smart aleck that I was, I made a deal with Him. "God," I said...I believed at the time that was his first name. "God, if you want me to, I will sing Christmas songs...but I'll only sing the ones that were written by Jews. Ha!" That seemed like a fair compromise to me. To this day, Irving Berlin's White Christmas and The Christmas Song, co-written by Mel Torme, are still among my all-time favorite pieces of music. So many years later, so many anti-Semitic incidents experienced, it occurred to me that prejudice is often rooted in the blind acceptance of stereotypes. Pondering this thought one night, a vision came to me in a dream. I would write songs of Hanukkah, stories of Jewish life that bear remarkable resemblances to those of other faiths and cultures. I would offer some clarity to the world. I would demonstrate that all of God's people, regardless of their persuasion, are a lot more alike than they are different. We laugh, we love, and we cry. We are brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and grandparents. We are family. Obsessed with my dream, I began writing Hanukkah songs. My middle school students in Morristown, NJ were so delighted to sing my melodies, they encouraged me to make them available to others. You'll find these songs on this CD. Here is the story of how they were recorded: One day, while visiting my daughter's church in Atlanta, Ga. (my family is both interfaith and inter-racial), I was struck by the spirit of the music I heard. Sonny Lallerstedt, their brilliant director is a renowned studio guitarist. His credits include working with Elton John, Mary J. Blige, Boyz To Men, and a cast of other celebrities. I asked Sonny if he would help me put my Hanukkah project together. Intrigued by the opportunity to build bridges between faiths, he climbed onboard. Sonny connected me with pianist/vocalist Cheryl Rogers, a former finalist for Christian Record Producer of the Year. Cheryl hooked me up with her circle of talented southern musicians, including Soul Train singer Tanya Smith-Pettigrew, national fiddle champion Becky Olds, and studio session veterans Scott Meeder on drums and Pat Malone on bass. My songs, interpreted by their sound, have turned out to be the musical marriage I had dreamed of. Building Bridges is a series of tuneful tales based on the history of my family. They are contemporary, original, and heartwarming...but most importantly...they are songs of Hanukkah. My hope is after listening to them, you too will agree that they have changed your world, as writing them has changed mine. Larry Gonsky.