A 19th century drinking song of inclusion
Saturday’s ceremony will also honor Thomas Kennedy, an early 19th century Maryland legislator who sponsored a bill to allow Jews to serve openly in state office. What was known as the “Jew Bill” passed in 1826, repealing part of the state’s 1776 constitution that required a “declaration of the Christian religion” in order to hold elective office.
Among the songs Cantor Susan Berkson will sing on Shabbat is “Come Fill Up Your Glasses.” Its lyrics are from a poem by the same title written by Kennedy.
Rachel Nichols, a former congregation president, said the poem was written as a drinking song, but carries the deeper messages of acceptance and not judging others. That, she said, was what struck a chord with Simon Sargon when she asked him to compose a song for the ceremony.
“He was tickled by the lyrics, and was moved to write this lively and tongue-in-cheek piece,” she said.
The words extol camaraderie and drinking and decry divisive politics and prejudice:
A plague upon politics, party and strife,
When they mar the enjoyments and blessings of life;
When they scatter discord round a table like this,
When they mingle the bitters of hate with our bliss.
On July 25, the city will break ground on a site near the synagogue that will include a statue and park dedicated to Kennedy.