By Elana Nussbaum Cohen ‘19
On Sunday, March 31st, I joined more than 400 other Jewish teenagers from around the United States and Israel on stage at David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center. What brought us together was our shared passion for Judaism, singing, and our involvement in HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir.
Every Sunday throughout the school year, I meet with my Hazamir Brooklyn chapter of about fifteen singers to learn the year’s repertoire. We rehearse in a local synagogue and spend the year learning the same music as every other HaZamir chapter in the world. We go note by note, voice part by voice part, learning the music that we will perform once, or maybe twice if we are lucky. Some of the music pieces are Jewish choral cult-classics like those written by Salamone Rossi. Others, however, are brand new compositions written specifically for the HaZamir choir. While these are often the most difficult to learn, getting to premier them at Lincoln Center is an experience like no other.
While my chapter sometimes has joint rehearsals with nearby chapters like the ones in Manhattan, Bergen County, and Long Island, we only truly feel the global network of HaZamir singers at our annual Festival in which all 400 singers gather and rehearse the music for four days. At the end of that four day festival each year is when we have the opportunity to sing on such stages as Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, and David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. The annual Festival is magical: In no other place can you find a reform Jew from Columbus, Ohio hanging out with an Orthodox Israeli from Tekoa in the West Bank as they bond over their favorite song from this year’s music repertoire. In no other place do Jewish teenagers from all over America and Israel get to learn from the biggest names in Jewish choral music and sing on the most grand stages in the country, all in the context of a youth movement.
It’s not just a cliche, but at HaZamir, 400 peoples’ hearts beat to the same drum – or at least to the same piano.