I spoke to the Grammy-winning hip-hop singer and violinist Miri Ben-Ari a few minutes ago, just as the Israeli-born artist was about to take the stage at Boston Symphony Hall to perform for President Barack Obama and a sold-out crowd of 1,800 viewers at an Obama Victory Fund 2012 reception. Here’s what she had to say about her presidential gig:
Q: How did this all come about?
A: Last year I performed at the White House for First Lady Michelle Obama, where I was honored as part of Women’s History Month. I performed a song that was a special request by the First Lady: “The Symphony of Brotherhood,” and we kept in touch. When this campaign and this event came about I was approached to take part in it and lend support.
Q: Why is this event important to you?
A: Because I consider myself as part of the American dream; I came to New York—to America—from Israel, with no money, no family and I hardly spoke any English. I just came here with my violin and a dream and I would like to make sure that Obama is successful, to keep this dream going. And I think that Obama is the only one in this race with a vision of moving this country forward.
Q: Are you concerned about all the criticism the president has received from some in the far-right pro-Israel community?
A: Not at all, because he is a great friend of Israel and he has demonstrated that above and beyond. And what really matters to me is the action he has taken: for example, he has increased Israel security funding, and he’s been working to prevent Iran from compiling nuclear weapons—so his support for Israel is without a doubt. As for any of his critics, people criticize things all the time; you just have to fight for what you believe in.
Q: What will you be performing tonight?
A: I’ll do some of my original music and of course “The Symphony of Brotherhood,” which features Dr. Martin Luther King and his “I Have a Dream” speech. I am so honored and so looking forward to performing for the president and to be a part of this campaign, and helping to bring his message before the American people and also the Jewish community in America.