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Music is a very special part of the Beth EL’s spiritual life and a fundamental part of Jewishness dating back to the Temple times, when Levitical choirs sang psalms in the Temple sanctuary and large ancient orchestras played to add drama and color to the Temple ceremony.
With music, we celebrate our rich and ancient history, as well as seeking ways to enhance our shul experience today, whether it’s the haunting melody of Kol Nidre, or a new and funky way to sing V’Shamru. But perhaps most importantly, music adds soul to our religious experience and captures the children’s imagination.
Beth El has expanded the musical and spiritual life of the synagogue, introducing new melodies in services and online. For more of the melodies used in Beth El, please visit our SoundCloud page.
As many of you know, one of my most cherished roles as Hazzan is to serve as conductor for children’s choirs. It is hard to put into words what a gift it is to teach our young people the love of Jewish music and share in their joys as they grow into young adults. We have several remarkable youth choirs at Beth El. If you are interested in joining any of these choirs, please contact me at email@example.com.
Shir Atid is a choir for children from 3rd-5th grade that meets each week after Religious School (11:45 am). It’s a group of musical, enthusiastic and imaginative kids that spend another 30 min each week with their BERS friends, learning new Jewish, rocking out and just having a good time. Shir Atid performs at Shir Yachad services, Thanksgiving interfaith services, Megillah Madness and community concerts throughout the year.
Founded in 2018, the Gesher Chorale is an auditioned group of 6th-8th graders who meet each week on Sundays from 10:00-11:30 am. These teens and pre-teens sing in 2- and 3-part harmony, participate in Shir Yachad, Thanksgiving, and other concerts and last year were invited to Colorado to perform in the Gala concert, Almonds and Raisins, with the Colorado Hebrew Chorale.
During Covid-19, Gesher has continued to meet via Zoom, practicing their solfege skills, doing virtual recording projects, and continuing to bond with one another. Some members even write and arrange their own music for the choir to sing!
Marak Hayom, founded in 2005, is the sensational teen run a capella group begun by Micah Hendler (now of the internationally recognized) YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus. Founded at Beth El, the group has expanded in recent years and now has 18-20 annual members from across Bethesda, Rockville, Potomac and other areas of Moco. Marak Hayom performs often at Bnai Mitzvah throughout the year, at the High Holidays, and in area a capella contests and conventions.
Check out some of our ensemble videos:
An elite high school singing group for kids 9th-12th grade who want to continue learning classical Jewish Music in 3- and 4-part harmony. This group will be no more than 10 members and demand a superior level of musicianship from it’s members. Perhaps a few future Cantors could come from this group! For more information, please email Hazzan Fradkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s something about a service with a full band and the warmth of a guitar, piano and percussion that brings us a sense of belonging and community.
At Beth El, we have two such services every month.
Shir Yachad (“song together”) is a musical Kabbalat Shabbat extravaganza that takes place on the first Friday of the month from September to June. There are clarinets, piano, ukulele, guitar, electric guitar, bass, djembe, cajon, cello, and viola. And singers, of course! Anyone can participate! Just email Hazzan Fradkin at email@example.com.
Shir Yachad started with 3 leaders and has exploded into 12, plus teens and youth choirs that join in the singing during the service. Hundreds of people attend this once-a-month experience that brings the entire community together.
The evening begins at 6:00 pm with Nitzanim, a musical service for families with young children. From 6:30-7:00 pm, join us for a Happy Half-Hour where families and young adults are invited to schmooze with us while enjoying drinks (both adult and kid friendly!) and appetizers. Free babysitting is available during happy hour. Then join us for the main musical service at 7:30 pm.
The Friday Night Kol Haneshamah service is a lively and interactive service that blends tradition and creativity, and features the melodies of Shlomo Carlebach and contemporary Jewish artists, as well as melodies that are heard at innovative congregations in the United States and in Israel, such as Congregation B’nai Jeshurun and Romemu in New York, and Shira Chadasha and Nava Tehila in Jerusalem. Led by Scott Glick and other lay leaders, the service includes musical instruments and usually takes place on the third Friday of the month.
The creative team of Kol Haneshama also offers Selichot and High Holiday prayer experiences.
At Beth El’s concerts, my goal is to bring you musical experiences you have never had before. Here is a sampling of concerts we have offered in the past few years.
This program featured new music by Hazzan Natasha Hirschorn from New York, a stunning setting of Ilu Finu. Hazzan Hirschhorn and I shared the stage for a new arrangement of Ben Tzion Shenker’s famous melody for Psalm 2.
Featuring three women Hazzanim from our area, Hinda Labovitz, Arianne Brown, and Elisheva Dienstfry. This program included music from local composers, including original compositions by the three Hazzanim and beautiful music by Flory Jagoda as well. The Shir Atid and Gesher choirs also sang and joined the Cantors for a final number.
Cellist Molly Jones joined us to present a program of lost music from the Holocaust. This program featured music written by Jewish composers who were murdered in the Shoah.