Schechter schools sing out for Israel@60
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Schechter schools sing out for Israel@60

Excited and nervous. That’s how Ethan Klein, a sixth-grader from Gerrard Berman Day School, Solomon Schechter of North Jersey, in Oakland, felt the day he and other students recorded a song in tribute to Israel’s 60th anniversary, which will be part of a double CD set.

"It was the first time I was in such a big studio," Ethan added.

Ethan is the soloist in "Shabechi Yerushalayim," one of the 3′ songs on "Schechter Sings for Israel @60!" in which children from 3′ Schechter schools in 14 states and Canada participated.

The set, to be released today, is a project of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association, a member of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.


The choir of the Gerrard Berman Day School, Solomon Schechter of North Jersey at the recording studio. Courtesy Gerrard Berman Day School, Solomon Schechter of North Jersey.

Dassi Rosenkrantz-Cabo, the music teacher at Gerrard Berman, directed the Berman choir, which included ‘5 children from grades one to five, with the exception of Ethan.

She also oversaw the production of the song, which was recorded at the Knoop Studio in River Edge, and played the piano and percussion congas. The song is based on Psalm 147, with music by Avihu Medina.

"It is amazing that they managed to take this project off the ground because it took a lot of coordination," said Rosenkrantz-Cabo. "Everybody was excited about it, so they had ’00 percent cooperation."

The set includes songs from each of the six decades of Israel’s existence. Some decades have more than one song and all, with the exception of four that are also sung in English, are in Hebrew.

"The decades were the guidelines for selecting all the songs," said Rosenkrantz-Cabo.

The 45-member choir of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County, in New Milford, with children from grades three, four, and five, performed "Shir Hapalmach" ("The Song of the Palmach," the marching tune of the Jewish defense organization in pre-state Israel) and "Ha’amini" ("Believe Me").

The songs were recorded in the school’s sanctuary by a sound engineer.

"It was an exciting experience for the kids," said Suri Krieger, the school’s music teacher, who directed the choir. "It’s something that will stand out in their memories."

The musical tribute originated with Elaine Cohen, associate director of the Department of Education at United Synagogue, who approached the music teachers of all the Schechter schools in the United States and Canada electronically and through a conference call.

"It really percolated from the ground up," she said. "It was a collaborative effort."

Six months in the making, the project cost approximately $10,000, said Cohen, and was financed with grants from the Professionals’ Council of the Schechter schools and the Danziger Foundation, an individual donation, and United Synagogue and the SSDAS. Each school paid for its own recording.

"This is of our movement and for it," Cohen added.

Each school sent its own recording to Chase Productions, in Massachusetts, which put the songs together.

Rabbi David Paskin, religious leader of Temple Beth Abraham in Canton, Mass., composed the signature song of "Israel@60," "Kumi Ori," which is performed by the choirs of two Solomon Schechter schools from that state.

"Kumi Ori" (Arise, shine) are the first words of the chapter 60 of the Book of Isaiah, in which the prophet foresees a glorious future for Israel.

"We liked the song very much because the themes [of the chapter] are very appropriate for Israel at 60, and there is a nice congruence of the [number] 60," Cohen said. "It is a prophetic and inspirational voice."

Other songs are the popular "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" ("Jerusalem of Gold"), "Kol Israel Haverim" ("All of Israel Are Friends’), and "Eretz Israel Sheli" ("My Land of Israel").

As part also of the tribute of the SSDAS to Israel, Sarah Shay-Davidson, a teacher from the South Area Solomon Schechter Day School in Norwood, Mass., who is also a graphic designer, created the CD cover and a poster that features the logo of each school. A T-shirt was adapted from the poster.

The set is for educational purposes and not for sale, Cohen said.

Fifteen hundred copies were produced and each school family will receive one through its school, Cohen said, adding, "It’s a wonderful resource and a way to show the schools’ attachment and connection to Israel."

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