Interfaith couples often don’t work out. To complicate things, Julie Silver is married to her wife in a time when same sex marriages still face legal, religious and social hurdles. Still, Julie Silver is a celebrated contemporary Jewish composer and has put out successful albums of her original Jewish music since 1992. Some of her songs have become standards in worship and camp settings.
Julie was born into a music loving family and raised in Newton, Massachusetts. Her experiences at camp, particularly at Camp Pembroke in Massachusetts, really kick-started her interest in creating music. She saw music as a means to bring people together, lower defenses and face each other more openly. She recounted how two nuns once helped her climb a mountain in Ireland. When she told them she sang Jewish songs, they wanted her to sing them. Climbing that mountain with the nuns brought her closer to her own faith. She graduated from Clark University in Worcester in 1988. While in school, she was leading song sessions in the Reform Jewish movement. After graduation, she worked as a DJ at a Boston radio station. But she wanted to sing, not just play others’ songs on the radio. Her first album, in 1992, was Together. She moved to Santa Monica, California in 1994 to hone her writing, recording, guitar playing, and singing. She has released several albums, some of which are among the highest selling albums of original Jewish music. Her 2007 CD, It’s Chanukah Time, was the only Jewish album to ever be recognized on Billboard.
Today, she lives with her wife, an Irish Catholic, and two daughters in Southern California. As part of the complications of an interfaith relationship, they raise the children in a synagogue, but go to midnight Mass when in New York. Julie organized an Easter egg hunt for their girls and her wife takes the older girl to Hebrew school. She told The Philadelphia Gay News in September 2013 “The more we talk about our faith, the more we talk about our separate experiences, the more we have combined experiences, the more our experiences mean to us.”
My favorite song of those I have heard is “Open Up Our Eyes” on her 1995 album Walk With Me. This song was composed at a camp in the summer of 1994. She can’t get away from her camp roots. “Open Up Our Eyes” seems especially relevant to someone who has been spending her life opening up others’ eyes. “God of heaven, God of earth, how did we come to be? . . . Open up our eyes.” Though Julie is centered in Torah, the lyrics, all in English, could be sung in any Christian denomination as well.