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.
The purpose of the choir is twofold: to connect secular and religious Jews alike to their cultural and spiritual heritage and also to instill in each member a love for the arts.
I had the privilege of participating in Hazamir two years ago and joined them on the stage of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. The rehearsals were often difficult but the results were never shy of mesmerizing. I remember feeling awe; I felt deeply connected to something, whether to my Judaism, the songs or my friends. I thought of others who only dreamed of being onstage.
This time I was on the other side, watching. The songs were still striking. Hazamir’s rendition of “Avinu Shebashamyim,” a prayer for the safety of Israel, was an unforgettable experience, both listening to it and, two years ago, being a part of it. When I was on stage, I concentrated on my voice alone, whereas in the audience, I was able to hear the sounds of the choir as a whole. It made me appreciate how beautifully their voices mixed together into one harmonious tune.
The concert concluded with the singing of “Hatikvah” by the current Hazamir group, a group of Hazamir alumni and the audience members. I was not the only one brought to tears by these songs. The depth and beauty of the music was truly magnificent.
Miriam Lichtenberg, a junior at SAR High School where she is features editor of theBuzz, is a participant in Write-On for Israel.