It is hardly a secret that the Jewish world that we inhabit, particularly here in New York, is plagued by deep divisions. Interdenominational friction makes it at best extremely difficult for rabbis and laypeople to work together across those lines for the betterment of the Jewish community as a whole, and there is little reason to hope that the situation will be changing any time soon. There are pulls to the right and to the left. Unless Israel is threatened, we find it hard to talk to each other both literally and figuratively.
Hazamir, the International Jewish High School Choir, has figured out how to solve that problem: Transcend the spoken word and the ideologies behind it, and replace it with the harmony of beautifully sung music. That's exactly what happened this past Sunday at Carnegie Hall, when the choir performed.
As Matthew Lazar stepped onto the stage, surveyed his creation, and began conducting the Hazamir choir, his face was shining. Hazamir: The International Jewish High School Choir, founded by Lazar in 1993, includes students active in 21 chapters across North America and one (soon to be two) in Israel. Two Sundays ago, they performed their 20th Annual Gala Concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center, with songs including “Shehechayanu” and “L’Eyla.
Practicing, practicing, and more practicing. That’s how I’ve spent two hours of my Sunday afternoons this year.
By deciding to join HaZamir, the international Jewish high school choir, mid-year of my sophomore year at Friends Seminary in Manhattan, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I hadn’t been in a choir since sixth grade, but I was in an a cappella group last year. In HaZamir, I found out that memorizing more than a dozen songs in just a few months really is just as hard as it sounds.