The group Israeli folk dancing classes are back and open to dancers of all skill levels on Wednesday nights.

By Elana Renbaum



Gahl Shem-Tov teaches a group of students an Israeli Folk Dance on Wednesday night. This was one of three circle dances Shem-Tov taught throughout the class. (Elana Renbaum/Mitzpeh)

After hosting its first class of the year, Israeli folk dance group sessions are now open to dancers of all skill levels every Wednesday at Hillel.

Led by sophomore bioengineering major Gahl Shem-Tov, the dance sessions consist of an hour of instruction, followed by an hour of open dance.

Shem-Tov teaches dances known throughout the Jewish world, with the hope that his students will be able to join generations of other Jewish dancers. 

“In Israel, you always see like hundreds and hundreds of people dancing, and I think it’s really cool I’m able to bring that to a group of young people that are energetic and have a passion for it and continuing it on,” he said. 

He began folk dance classes in the spring semester of 2022 and was excited to start them up again in the fall. 

“Last semester was my guinea pig. I’ve taught dances before and other dancing sessions in the community, but last semester was my first time actually teaching at my own session,” Shem-Tov said.

He taught circle and line dances at beginner and advanced levels. Some were repeated from his lessons from last semester, but most were new routines. 

Sophomore environmental science and policy and sociology major Alina Kahn came to the session as research for one of her humanities classes, with a focus in dance around the world. 

“I went for a dance project. I’m looking into the history of Israeli folk dancing and stuff. The fact that a lot of it was circle dances stood out to me because that’s kind of what I’ve been researching,” Kahn said. 

Both new and experienced dancers enjoyed the session. Kahn enjoyed the easygoing nature of the session, where even if you made a mistake, she said no one really cared. 

Freshman cell biology genetics major Pearly Gal-Edd is a more experienced Israeli folk dancer, and a member of Avirah, UMD’s Israeli Dance Company. 

For Gal-Edd, even the simpler dances are fun and take Jewish learning outside of the classroom. 

“Israeli dance is important to me because not only is it super fun and a good workout, but it also allows me to meet other people who enjoy dancing and are Jewish or enjoy Israeli culture and also do it in a fun way that isn’t necessarily sitting down and studying,” Gal-Edd said.

As the sessions progress, Shem-Tov plans to teach more complicated dance and step out of his comfort zone teaching-wise.  

The sessions will be held every Wednesday from 8-10 p.m. in the multipurpose room at Hillel.


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