On my 1992 application for the Wexner Heritage Program, I wrote about Cantor Jerome B. Kopmar as the most influential person in my life. Long before there was communal conversation about informal Jewish education, Cantor Kopmar was educating Jewish youth in Akron through the medium of Jewish choral music. I only sang in the choir for one year and was brokenhearted when Cantor Kopmar left, knowing deep in my 11 year old soul that I was losing something special.
When I met Matthew Lazar, the Founder of HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir in 2007, I saw the man who had taken Cantor Kopmar’s dream to the next level. So it is with equal measures of amazement and humility that on Sunday, March 26, I will receive the Zamir Choral Foundation’s Kinor David Award for my support of HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir. This is truly a full circle story.
This award, to be presented during HaZamir’s 24th annual Gala Concert, recognizes my role in expanding HaZamir Israel. By bringing more Israelis to this proudly Zionist Jewish youth movement, 400 teens belonging to 35 chapters around the US and Israel have a more impactful musical mifgash (encounter). To those of us who care about harmonious Israel-Diaspora relations and about strong Jewish identities grounded in our shared story, mutual language and profound experiences, HaZamir is literally “music to our ears.”
As anti-Semitic incidences continue to disrupt daily Jewish life around the globe, HaZamirniks from around the US and Israel are preparing to sing sophisticated settings of Jewish music in voices loud and strong. To those who threaten to harm us, who try to keep us in a dark place of fear and uncertainty, HaZamir answers by instilling within each HaZamirnik a Jewish identity grounded in text, strengthened by community and bonded by the thrill of creating together the most beautiful Jewish music.