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

Local teens to sing in NYC


Cantor Jacqueline Rawiszer

Last September, HaZamir Orlando, the international Jewish High School choir, launched its inaugural season with auditions for teens from all over the Orlando area. Congregation of Reform Judaism Cantor Jacqueline Rawiszer, director of HaZamir Orlando, made her selections. The chosen singers rehearsed weekly at The Roth Family JCC, learning the same Jewish choral repertoire as 35 other HaZamir chapters across the United States and Israel. And now, the season will culminate with the teens joining as one choir at a weekend festival in New York and impressive concert in David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center in New York City on March 26.

The Central Florida teens who made the cut for the Orlando chapter of HaZamir are Harrison Burke, 14, a freshmen at Trinity Preparatory School; Hannah Schenkel, 16, of Edgewater High School, and Congregation Ohev Shalom; Maya Milsom, 17, a senior at Lyman High School, and attends Congregation of Reform Judaism; Alexa Schein, 16, a junior at Winter Park High School, and attends Ohev Shalom; and Vicki Geismer, 16, a junior, homeschooled, attending Temple Shir Shalom.

"As a Jewish community, we cannot underestimate the significance and impact of the HaZamir experience for our teens-locally, nationally and internationally-through its deep connection to Israel. The opportunity to sing glorious music at Lincoln Center is remarkable in itself. But to be able to strengthen the connection to one's Jewish peers in such a musical way, as well as to create lifelong friendships through HaZamir, that is priceless," Rawiszer told the Heritage last September.

Vicki Geismer is excited about the coming experience. "I really enjoy being exposed to new Jewish choral pieces. I'm looking forward to meeting hundred Jewish teens, as well as hearing how beautiful we all sound together."

Maya Milsom agrees with Geismer, "My favorite thing about being in Hazamir Orlando is being able to have a musical, Jewish, and personal connection to high schoolers in my area. I most look forward to seeing our small scale efforts as a single chapter pay off when all 400 or so singers come together to create beautiful art through singing."

HaZamir is not just a choir. It is also a dynamic and charismatic youth movement, offering participants a pluralistic environment in which to interact with other teens from all streams of Judaism.

"I think that being able to develop my Jewish identity and socialize with my friends simultaneously is what I really enjoy about being in Hazamir Orlando," said Harrison Burke. "I'm really looking forward to the sense of accomplishment of singing amazing music in a world renown concert hall as well as seeing some of my long distance friends."

HaZamir singers learn Jewish choral repertoire as they build community, develop leadership skills, connect to Jewish culture, and receive a Jewish education

During a three-day retreat and a shared Shabbat leading up to the concert, the singers from all the HaZamir chapters in the States and Israel gather for a four-day retreat in upstate New York for rehearsals, a choice of prayer services, and social activities arranged by HaZamir Teen Leaders.

"I enjoy seeing a close group of diverse Jewish friends and learning to actually sing," said Alexa Schein. "I'm most excited to meet hundreds of people bound by at least two things in common: singing and Judaism."

Andrea Burke serves as parent coordinator of the Orlando Chapter. The chapter was founded with the support of Dr. Alan Mason (conductor HaZamir Miami), Vivian Lazar (director of HaZamir) and The Roth Family JCC in Maitland.


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