“What is Jewish music?” my cousin asked, when I talked about the Milwaukee Jewish Community Chorale (MJCC), describing the group. That question implied another: Isn’t music universal? I found an answer in a book by Rabbi Avraham Trugman. He writes, “[Music’s] appeal on one hand is universal, transcending race, religion, culture, and era, while on the other hand nothing captures the particular essence of a specific culture, religion, era or individual better than music. It allows the soul to soar…”
My soul soars when the Chorale creates the rich harmonies of “Heal Us Now,” a heartfelt prayer for refuah shlema, complete healing. Singing for our seniors at Chai Point and the Sarah Chudnow Community, we experience joyful and mournful sounds of our people. Singing tunes they know, our hearts share our Jewish culture. The Chorale’s tagline, “Voices of Harmony,” takes on several layers of meaning.
I have always loved to sing. At age 5, I sang with my synagogue youth choir. At 12, the best part of Camp Union Institute (now Olin-Sang-Ruby) for me was singing – blessings before meals, Birkat HaMazon after, and song circles at least once a day, led with great spirit by madrichim (counselors) playing their guitars.
I joined the MJCC in 2012 after the chorus I sang with folded, happy to continue singing even though my Hebrew was rusty. I liked how the Chorale’s schedule works within the Jewish calendar, and I was challenged by complex arrangements of some of our pieces. As I got to know the other members better, it began to feel like family. Artistic Director Enid Bootzin Berkovits was and continues to be very good-natured while guiding us to better performance practices.
Attending the 25th annual North American Jewish Choral Festival in July 2014 in New York’s Catskill Mountains with my siblings and their spouses as well as my Chorale family was especially meaningful. It was inspiring to feel personally nurtured while basking in the talent and professionalism of other choirs and more than 500 individuals from across the country and around the world.
Zemer Am, a smaller one-day choral festival, took place in Chicago on Feb. 19. I was grateful to attend this day of music learning and practice, ending with a public concert of performances by each participating group, and culminating in “Shalom Rav” (arr. Aronson) and “Ein Keloheinu” (arr. Contzius) with more than 80 singers performing as a whole.
I’m not the only member of the Milwaukee Jewish Community Chorale who is excited about our annual concert, to be held on Tuesday, June 6 this year. We will welcome our community cantors to sing with us, and our very special guest from Boston will be the six-man band Safam, “the Jewish-American sound.” From their website, “Through its music, humor, passion and sensitivity, Safam instills in its audiences a sense of pride about being Jewish in America.” The concert will be free. For additional information, see our website at MilwaukeeJewishCommunityChorale.org
Julie Magidson is Publicity Chair for the Milwaukee Jewish Community Chorale.
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Save the date!
Milwaukee Jewish Community Chorale is to hold its annual concert on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. Free. Location to be announced. Area cantors and the “Jewish American sound group” called Safam, from Boston, are to participate. MilwaukeeJewishCommunityChorale.org