‘More Songs She Loved’
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‘More Songs She Loved’

Stephanie Prezant is remembered with the music that defined her

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Stephanie Prezant and her brother, Jonathan. Her memory will be kept alive at a second memorial concert.

“More Songs that She Loved, ” a program that will be presented at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly on the night of February 8, is billed as a tribute – not a memorial – to Stephanie Iris Prezant, a Haworth woman who died in a rock-climbing accident in April 2012, a month before she would have graduated from the University of Delaware.

Funds raised through ticket sales will support the Stephanie I. Prezant Maccabi Fund at the JCC. They will allow Jewish teen athletes to participate in this Olympic-style national Jewish competition for sports and dance. Stephanie was on a Maccabi dance team for four years.

Elana Prezant said that her oldest daughter had extraordinary enthusiasm for life, and the concert is meant to keep that spirit alive for her family and many friends and admirers. Stephanie’s father, Jeffrey Prezant, and her 22-year-old brother, Jonathan, are participating in the show, playing guitar and keyboards, respectively. Stephanie’s cousin, Sarah Fortinsky, 16, will be a lead vocalist. The music ranges from American and British pop to Israeli folk.

“My husband plays guitar for fun, and music was one way Jeff and Stephanie connected,” Ms. Prezant said. “He was the only American invited to perform with an Israeli band at the JCC a couple of years ago. Three months after Stephanie’s accident, two of those band members suggested doing a concert of songs Stephanie liked.

“It far exceeded our expectations. We had about 400 people. It was a magical night – a night of energy that we as a family felt from our community. It was uplifting at the worst of times, and it kind of felt like Stephanie was there.”

After the concert, many audience members suggested a reprise the next year. “It’s a huge time commitment, and all the band members have careers outside of music. I wasn’t sure everyone wanted to jump on board again, but they did,” Ms. Prezant said. “I just really hope to get that magical feeling back. It reaffirmed how supportive our community is, and what a huge loss is felt by many people beyond our immediate family.”

The venue is of special significance. Stephanie went to the JCC’s nursery school, studied dance in its School of Performing Arts, participated in JCC Holocaust memorial commemorations, and competed in the Maccabi Games held there in 2003. Even her standing-room-only funeral was held at the JCC, at the suggestion of its chief executive officer, Avi Lewinson.

“She was the type of kid who, when she walked into the house, you felt her sunshine walking in, and so people remember her,” her mother said. “She was full of life and excitement and energy. Since the accident, I have learned that she touched a lot of people.”

Shlomi Pilo will be on keyboard and vocals and his daughter Erel on vocals that Saturday evening, Udy Kashkash will be on guitar and vocals, Ronen Mikay will be on saxophone, Arlene Gould will contribute Hebrew vocals, Gal Gershovsky will be on drums, and Uri Kleinman will be on bass. Professional vocalist Susan Collins Caploe, a family friend who lives in Tenafly, will put in a special appearance.

The songs were selected by Jeff, Jonathan, and Jacqueline Prezant. Jacqueline, 17, is Stephanie’s sister. “The three of them put together the playlist using Stephanie’s iTunes list from her computer, so the songs are very directly connected to Stephanie,” their mother said.

One of the selections, “Try” by Pink, often was heard in the Prezants’ piano room. “Jonathan would play piano and her cousin Sarah would sing the song, and Stephanie would watch them so proudly,” Ms. Prezant said.

Among the other songs are “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls and “Uf Gozal” (Fly, Little Bird) by Arik Einstein, a song Stephanie learned when she was a pupil at Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County and included in the video montage for her bat mitzvah party. Jonathan Prezant added “Let Her Go” by Passenger. This song came out soon after Stephanie’s death, and the lyrics resonated with her brother.

Tickets for “More Songs That She Loved,” at $30 per person, $15 for students 18 and under, are on sale online at www.jccotp.org. For more information and underwriting opportunities, call Sharon Kestenbaum at 201-408-1406 or email her at skestenbaum@jccotp.org.

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Stephanie Prezant and her brother, Jonathan. Her memory will be kept alive at a second memorial concert.
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