This Sunday, December 18, at 4 p.m., Congregation Sons of Israel of Nyack will hold a Chanukah party. But it won’t be just an ordinary Chanukah party.
Yes, the menorah will be lit, there will be traditional holiday refreshments, and lots of games for kids to play. But this will be a party on steroids. That’s because the congregation will welcome the internationally acclaimed men’s a capella group, Six13.
Six13 will perform both a medley of holiday songs as well as the music they’re famous for around the world — parodies of songs from such shows as “Hamilton” and “West Side Story,” and pop anthems like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with original lyrics as well as the words that come straight from Jewish liturgy.
Six13 was formed in 2003 at Binghamton University when Michael Boxer, then a student there, brought together a group of fellow Jewish students to sing in concert. They named themselves after the 613 commandments of the Torah. Mr. Boxer, who grew up in Spring Valley, is not only the leader of the all-male, six-person ensemble, but also its business manager and chief lyricist. Mr. Boxer has written more than 200 a capella arrangements, not only for Six13 but for other a capella groups as well.
Howard Lasner of New City and David Hill of Goshen are both members of CSI; Mr. Lasner is one of the shul’s past presidents, and Mr. Hill is its vice president now. Together, Mr. Lasner and Mr. Hill cochair the Chanukah party. “After having not been able to do in-person events throughout the pandemic, we were excited about the idea of doing an event that was not on Zoom,” Mr. Lasner said.
“We wanted to bring the whole Jewish community together,” Mr. Lasner added. “We thought a great way to do that would be to bring Six13 in to sing for us.
“From the first moment we let people know about our plans, there’s been an overwhelming response. We’ve had to add seats to the sanctuary and social hall to accommodate everyone.”
Congregation Sons of Israel of Nyack is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue with roots in a congregation that formed in eastern Rockland County in 1870. This year’s Chanukah celebration and concert is in keeping with its mission — bringing tradition and community together for meaningful Jewish experiences.
Ariel Russo is the community’s rabbi. “Having had so many of our holiday gatherings canceled or diminished by the pandemic, our community is just so ready to be together again to experience the optimism and joyous affirmation of Jewish identity that Chanukah represents,” Rabbi Russo said. “I can’t imagine a more fitting way to do that than through the energetic, soulful, funny, and wildly entertaining music of Six13. They’re incredible!” Rabbi Russo has led CSI since 2014. She and her husband, Matthew Russo, have three children, ranging from 1 to 6 years old.
The CSI Chanukah party will begin at 4 p.m. with an opening act featuring Lori Weber and Jerry Blum, students at the Academy for Jewish Religion, a pluralistic seminary in Yonkers, followed by the ceremonial lighting of the giant menorah on the synagogue’s front lawn. After the lighting, everyone will return inside for Six13 to take the stage and perform for approximately an hour. Light refreshments will be served at the end of the program and audience members will have an opportunity to meet the members of Six13, get autographs, and buy CDs.
“There are still a few tickets left,” Mr. Lasner said. “I’m advising anyone who would still like to attend to go to our website, www.csinyack.org/chanukah. We’re also advising everyone to come early because there will be limited parking spaces in the synagogue’s parking lot and because the choice of seating in each section is first-come, first-serve.”