Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Maccabeats take center stage in Orlando


In front of a sold-out crowd at the Dr. Phillips High School Performing Arts Center, Ari Lewis performs with other members of the Jewish a cappella group Maccabeats on Sunday, April 10. 

Using only the human voice as their instrument, the Maccabeats brought their eclectic array of vocal arrangements to Orlando on the afternoon of Sunday, April 10.

Their sold-out performance at the Dr. Phillips High School Performing Arts Center marked the Jewish a cappella group's first appearance in Central Florida. The 650-seat auditorium was packed with members from synagogues as near as Congregation Ohev Shalom in Maitland and as far away as Temple Beth Sholom in Sarasota.

The Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation worked for nearly a year to bring the Maccabeats to the Orlando area. Before introducing the group, Rabbi Hillel Skolnik of SOJC referenced a famous quote by the father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzel: "If you will it, it is not a dream."

"His words ring true as well when it comes to SOJC and this concert today," Rabbi Skolnik said. "As a small synagogue that truly survives on the incredible dedication of its loyal members, we are proud to be the embodiment of making our dreams into reality."

Since 2007, the Maccabeats have been merging traditional Jewish and Israeli songs with secular music. Their roots trace back to Yeshiva University, where they first began their musical journey as a student vocal group. Having a large and diverse fanbase has led them to perform in five continents, 30 states and provinces and at the White House.

The auditorium erupted with applause as seven of the 14 Maccabeats took the stage. Clad in kippot, the vocalists sung a lineup of hits, including their Passover "Les Misérables Medley" and their modernized, upbeat version of the classic Jewish song "Acheinu."

As they proudly sang along, the energetic crowd raised their cellphones in the air. A sea of white lights danced in concordance to the beat, illuminating the pitch-black auditorium.

The regularly scheduled concert concluded with the Maccabeats' rendition of "One Day," a song by the Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu.

"The words are a prayer for peace, and peace is one of the major themes and ideas of what we do," said Maccabeats member Julian Horowitz. "We all sing different parts that may not necessarily sound good on their own, but when you put them together, they make a more unified whole."

Afterward, the Maccabeats went impromptu and sang two Chanukah parodies before making their way into the lobby to sign programs and take pictures with eager fans.

Sophomore Amy Troell, 19, drove with three of her friends from the University of Central Florida to see the Maccabeats in concert. Since she had never attended an a cappella performance before, Troell said she was not sure what to expect. But after hearing them sing, she said she was "definitely a fan."

"They were amazing. I was so happy to hear the Hebrew and English singing," Troell said. "The last song got me so hyped and pumped."

University of Florida graduate student and SOJC member Rachel Bolusky, 23, attended the concert with her father, Ben Bolusky. As someone who was raised in Orlando, she said it was meaningful and exciting to see Jews from across Florida bonding over their heritage.

"It's a great opportunity to get people of the Jewish community together for something that celebrates our Judaism in a fun and unique way," Bolusky said.


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