Celebrating its 25th year as a division of the JCC Thurnauer School of Music, SHIRAH: The Jewish Community Chorus of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades will give a celebratory concert on Sunday, June 23. SHIRAH was founded in June 1995 through a “shidduch” between Bernie and Ruth Weinflash z”l, lovers and supporters of Jewish music, and Avi Lewinson, then CEO of the Kaplan JCC, who advocated strongly for the inclusion of the choir. At the upcoming concert, tributes will be offered to the Weinflashes as well as to Lewinson and Matthew Lazar, founding director of SHIRAH.
The concert, which will be led by current conductor Dr. Marsha Bryan Edelman, will feature music from the choir’s repertoire in Hebrew, English and Yiddish. Lazar, who served as conductor until 2015, will return to lead SHIRAH as well as alumni singers in a selection of musical highlights from the past. A special feature of the program will be the world premiere of the choral piece “Do Justice,” based upon a phrase from the Book of Zechariah. The piece was created by Benjie Ellen Schiller and commissioned in memory of the Weinflashes, whose daughter Carol Kopelman sings with the choir and, along with her siblings, is very supportive of SHIRAH.
SHIRAH performs sacred and secular songs from across the spectrum of the Jewish musical tradition. In addition to regular performances at the JCC, SHIRAH has been featured in numerous concerts in the U.S. and Israel, at venues including Avery Fisher Hall, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Bergen Performing Arts Center and annually at the North American Jewish Choral Festival, at which they will perform this year on July 9.
The 45 members of the choir are adults of a range of ages hailing not only from the local communities but from Westchester, Rockland, Southern New Jersey and Manhattan. Local members are affiliates of area synagogues including Keter Torah, Beth Aaron, Ahavath Torah, Teaneck Jewish Center, Beth Sholom and Temple Emeth. Rehearsals take place weekly for 1½ hours and more intensely before performances.
Dr. Edelman, who recently relocated with her husband to Teaneck from Philadelphia, has earned degrees in general music, Jewish music and Jewish studies from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she currently serves as an adjunct professor of music. She has taught music to students of all ages for more than 40 years, including 25 years as a professor of music and education at Gratz College in Philadelphia. In addition, she has been affiliated with the Zamir Choral Foundation in various musical and managerial capacities since 1971, and currently serves as the administrator of the foundation.
For Edelman, “The choral world is a complete world unto itself. It forms small social communities that solidify and bond its members who even celebrate lifecycle events together. And yet, each one of our members is different as the choral world ‘revels’ in differences. We all need each other and appreciate each other.”
Of the current members of the SHIRAH choir, some have been singing with the group for almost all of the past 25 years. Ahrona Ohring, longtime Teaneck resident, shared her feelings about SHIRAH. “For those of us who express our feelings about Judaism through singing, especially together with others, SHIRAH has been a wonderful emotional outlet. Additionally, rehearsals include not only vocal practice but also informal lessons about Jewish music and music in general. Emotion and intellect. What a great arrangement!”
Debbie Ross, also a longtime Teaneck resident who sings with many Jewish choral groups in addition to SHIRAH, commented warmly, “I joined SHIRAH 25 years ago and it has been a joy ever since. From trying to maintain my composure when singing Yerushalayim Shel Zahav with a full chorus in Yerushalayim to watching that ‘spark’ light up in an audience of diverse Jews, SHIRAH unites and excites. It’s been a thrill meeting singers from all over the area—a mix of ages and affiliations—coming together to make beautiful music. Through SHIRAH I am continually learning about music, my fellow choir mates and about pushing my personal limits. Thank you to our founders and our conductors for providing us with the opportunity to make music together and share it with the Bergen County Jewish community. Mazal Tov on SHIRAH’s 25th anniversary.”
The 25th anniversary concert for SHIRAH will be held on Sunday, June 23, at 7 p.m., at Kaplen JCC on the Palisades located at 411 East Clinton Avenue, Tenafly.
Tickets are $25 for the general public and $18 for JCC members. To order tickets call 201-408-1465 or go to www.jccotp.org/concerts-and-events#1109. For more information about SHIRAH and the many programs offered at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, visit www.jccotp.org
By Pearl Markovitz