The Cap and the Collar perform at 7 p.m. Saturday at the United Methodist Church, 127 Beekman St., Plattsburgh. Admission is a food item or money for the Interfaith Food Shelf.
Hear a sample at: www.thecapandthecollar.com
PLATTSBURGH — Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz left a song in the heart of an appreciative congregation when he departed Temple Beth Israel here some 25 years ago.
Now, he's coming back to make more music.
And laugh a lot.
The rabbi is the Jewish half of musical, comedic duo The Cap and the Collar, partnered with the Rev. Paul Harmon, pastor of Washington Street United Methodist Church in Columbia, S.C. Since 2003, they have entertained at churches, synagogues and various events, raising money for different charities. Saturday at 7 p.m., they will perform at the United Methodist Church in Plattsburgh, accepting admission of cash or edible donations for the Interfaith Food Shelf.
On the program are traditional folk and country songs. Some familiar tunes have lyrics adapted to fit the pair's approach to celebrating differences and building bridges connecting different faiths and peoples.
"I'm Proud to be a Rabbi from South Brooklyn" is sung to the melody of "Okie from Muskogee."
"'Our Pastor's Nice' — or 'Our Rabbi's Nice' — is based on 'Edelweiss,'" Liebowitz said in a phone interview from Spartanburg, S.C.
He and Harmon, who first picked up their guitars together for a Rotary Club event, have been accused of playing off one another much like the Smothers Brothers.
"We rib each other a lot," said the rabbi, whose synagogue is B'nai Israel in Spartanburg.
"We do mostly humor and throw in a few serious things to balance it out," Harmon said from Columbia.
More thought provoking is a song he wrote called "Where the Wind Blows" about, he said, "the changing seasons and how that is God's sign to us that life comes from death.
"I've died many times and come back to life," Harmon said. "Every time we lose something dear to us, something inside us dies. In hindsight, we find that out of that death comes some opportunity for new life."
The rabbi penned the lyrics for "The Flower Man."
A rabbinic student in Jerusalem, Liebowitz often saw a man with a flowing gray beard and warm smile who sold flowers on the street.
"I noticed one day he had the tattoos on his arm" from a concentration camp, the rabbi said. "I was just struck by the contrast of his smile and what he had lived and experienced during the Holocaust."
Liebowitz and Harmon had always used music in their respective ministries.
"The guitar was almost always with (the rabbi) up on the bima (in the temple)," remembered Davis. "He would play songs, and we would sing along."
Performing together gave Harmon his first close interaction with a rabbi.
"I think Yossi has had a little more experience dealing with Christian pastors in the past," Harmon said.
In fact, the rabbi appeared for a time in the early 1980s on a public-broadcast program with a Catholic priest and Presbyterian minister in Plattsburgh called "The Religion Factor."
"By that time, I think ecumenism had become a little more commonplace," he said.
Living an hour or so apart, Liebowitz and Harmon see one another mostly for performances and the occasional rehearsal. They find themselves talking over issues that arise with their congregations, and sometimes, Liebowitz said, "what's on our hearts and what we're struggling with."
"I think we're a good sounding board for each other," Harmon said. "I've really appreciated this association — Yossi's become a really good friend."
It was through continuing friendship that Liebowitz's former congregation learned about The Cap and the Collar.
"I have the CD," Davis said. "It's an uplifting experience."
He passed it around and found others felt the same.
"I said, 'Let's get them up here,'" Davis said.
Music is a universal language, Liebowitz said.
And, he added, "especially in a world of strife, I think people like seeing two people from different faiths together, harmonizing."
Except there was that one time he and Harmon sang a Scottish ballad, both faking the brogue.
"It turned out there was a Scottish woman in the audience," Harmon said. "She didn't appreciate our accent."
E-mail Suzanne Moore at: firstname.lastname@example.org