Jewish a cappella groups celebrate history, community through music

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By Mackenzie Roche
For Mitzpeh
@MackenzieRoche

Students, families, faculty and members of the Jewish community gathered Saturday night in Memorial Chapel to celebrate their heritage through a cappella performances.

Student a cappella groups Kol Sasson, Mezumenet and Rak Shalom took turns performing a variety of songs ranging from “Warrior” by Demi Lovato to “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy to traditional Hebrew songs. The show, presented by Hillel, concluded with a performance by Avirah, the student Israeli dance troupe.

During their performance, members of Rak Shalom made a point to share their belief that while it’s important to be present in modern-day society, it’s also important to remember and celebrate the past. To express this, the group combined a Hebrew song about the destruction of Jerusalem with Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire”, and the piece was met with a standing ovation.

Rak Shalom recently finished its sixth studio album, and has traveled and performed around the country. Similarly, Kol Sasson is working on its eighth professional CD, and the group goes on spring break tours every year—this year to Philadelphia.

 

The crowd almost filled up the chapel for the performances. Mackenzie Roche/Mitzpeh.

 

Liora Rosenberg, a senior psychology major who attends many Hillel events, said she hadn’t seen the Jewish a cappella groups perform before, but she often watches their videos on Youtube.

“My mom originally reserved the tickets and she wasn’t able to make it tonight, but I still wanted to come to see [the a cappella groups] in person,” Rosenberg said.

Mezumenet, this university’s only all-female Jewish a cappella group, also has a new album in the works which group members said will be released sometime in December.

“I really liked Mezumenet because of the all-female aspect, and because they sang very empowering songs but they also weren’t afraid to have fun on stage with the parody,” junior finance major Jill Freedman said.

Freedman said although she doesn’t normally watch a cappella, she came to the performance to support the Maryland Hillel community.

Each group had a different take on Jewish a cappella. Kol Sasson presented many upbeat songs while Mezumenet slowed things down with a Lana Del Rey piece. Despite the different approaches, the students’ pride in their heritage was clear in every performance and helped weave the separate pieces together.

 

Members of the audience gave Rak Shalom a standing ovation at the end of their performance. Mackenzie Roche/Mitzpeh.

 

Silver Spring residents Michael and Marti Herskovitz also said they came to the show to support Maryland Hillel and their friend Rabbi Ari Israel who is the Hillel director.

“We came to a Hillel a cappella competition last year and really enjoyed it,” Michael Herskovitz said. “They always put on nice events, and we try to come to them whenever we can.”

Between songs, several individuals from the Hillel community spoke. Students and former students shared their Maryland experiences and praised the expansive Jewish community—about 6,000 students—that drew them to this university.

Israel thanked the members of the Hillel Board of Directors, the friends and parents who came to the show and everyone else who made the event possible.

“Thank you for 21 years of greatness,” Israel said. He went on to reference Jewish songwriter Leonard Cohen and explain how his songs related to Judaism.

“In his song ‘Anthem,’ Leonard Cohen says, ‘There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in,’” Israel said. “That’s what Hillel is all about – spreading the light of Judaism.”

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