The Web site for Hofstra Hillel lists a wide range of social, educational and religious activities that the Jewish student organization at Hofstra University offers.
It doesn’t mention organizing impromptu choruses.
Which Hofstra Hillel did one recent night.
The Hofstra chapter served as the lead campus sponsor for a “Songs of Love” recording session. Some 500 students — Hillel members and other undergraduates, as well as administrators and staff members — gathered in Hofstra USA, a large meeting hall, to sing a song written for an ill girl from Long Island. Under the direction of John Beltzer, above right, the founder of Songs Of Love (www.songsoflove.org), they recorded the lyrics that would be turned into a CD and delivered to Alexa Rae Ayala, who has a form of lymphoma.
Beltzer, a veteran singer and songwriter who lives in Forest Hills, and a group of 350 altruistic songwriting colleagues around the country, have made, for free, more than 15,000 custom-made songs for critically ill children and young adults.
Usually the people recording the songs don’t get to meet the people for whom they’re doing the singing. Usually Beltzer sends the kids the songs. “After a chemo treatment they listen to the song and it lifts their spirits,” says Rabbi Mitelman, executive director of Hofstra Hillel.
Sometimes, if the children are nearby and feeling well, they come for the recordings, which are made by volunteers Beltzer can line up.
Alexa Rae, 14, came to Hofstra USA.
“She sat up front. She was weak. She was rather shy,” says Rabbi Mitelman, who has enlisted students at the Hempstead, L.I., school to take part in Songs of Love recording sessions a few times.
“It’s very moving. You’re doing an active act of chesed,” the rabbi says. The students, who practiced the lyrics under Beltzer’s direction, also spent time talking to Alexa Rae. “You can see the energy. They love it. They’re smiling. They’re crying at the same time.”
The event was co-sponsored by the school’s Inter-Fraternity and Sorority Council and the Student Government Association.
Songs of Love volunteer activities are part of Hofstra Hillel’s ecumenical mission, Rabbi Mitelman says. “People see we’re an integral part of the campus community.”
Does he plan to invite Songs of Love back to Hofstra? Yes, he says. “Please God.”