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Engaging the Next Generation

by Cantor Marcy Kadin

Rabbi Rick Jacobs writes, “A staggering 80% of our b’nei mitzvah drop out before confirmation. Stemming this exodus is the impetus for a Movement-wide transformation of how we interact with our youth. That is why Rabbi Yoffie initiated, and I have endorsed as one of my top priorities, the Campaign for Youth Engagement—a long-term effort to transform and strengthen relationships between Jewish teens, their peers, their families, and their congregations.”

As Jewish clergy, family members, lay leaders, and Jewish educators, we all hope to engage our children, including our Jewish teens. Four years ago, in an effort to do my part on behalf of Jewish Youth Engagement, I started a chapter of HaZamir in Rockland County, New York, where I work.  From the Zamir Choral Foundation website, “HaZamir, The International Jewish High School Choir is a network of choral chapters across the United States and Israel which provides Jewish teens with a high level choral experience in a Jewish environment.  HaZamir transcends boundaries, giving teenagers a valuable and are trans-denominational experience as an opportunity to forge close bonds and unite in a common goal: music.”  Singing in this choir strengthens Jewish Identity, helps to build community, and forges strong ties to Israel.  At present, there are 24 chapters of HaZamir in the United States and 3 in Israel.  The teens all practice the same music beginning in the fall and come together in March, rehearse for a long weekend in a hotel in the Catskills, and then perform at Lincoln Center.  Imagine the power and beauty of a choir 300 strong singing the music of our people!

Listen to an informal singing of “HaZamir” at the joint rehearsal of all the chapters.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZaSzn0o4dA)

In a short 22 years, we have seen a transformation in the teens touched by HaZamir.  Many continue to sing in choirs and a cappella groups, some are studying to be rabbis, cantors, educators, and youth leaders; some sing in adult choirs and assume leadership roles.  “HaZamir invests in Jewish teens with the goal of shaping the next generation of Jewish adults with a deeper understanding of the values, tradition and glory of Judaism and artistic expression”. (from the website) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcmaNTJEjRs)

As we approach the new year of 5775, I invite everyone dedicated to the future of Israel and the Jewish people, to make a new commitment to increase Jewish Youth Engagement.  Encourage our teens to become a member of the HaZamir International Teen Choir.  Rehearsals will begin this month and it’s not too late to contact a conductor in your local area.  Information and locations of all of the national chapters can be found on the Zamir Choral Foundation website.  I believe so strongly in the mission of HaZamir. (www.zamirchoralfoundation.org)

As we pray for peace in Israel and the world, listen to the HaZamir Chamber Choir, a select group of voices, performing David Burger’s “T’filah L’Tzahal”, a prayer for the Israeli Defense Forces.  Let us all remember that the singing of Jewish Music instills a Jewish identity in children, one that is imprinted in their brains and will remain with them throughout their lives.  As we enter the New Year, engage them, in any way you can.  Joining a youth choir is only one (albeit a terrific one) option.  Our children are the future of the Jewish People. Shana tova.

Cantor Marcy Kadin is beginning her 6th year as the cantor at Beth Am Temple in Pearl River, New York, and was ordained as cantor from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2009. She spent her early childhood in Philadelphia and now resides in Piermont, New York, with her husband Paul.  She has two grown sons, Andy and Michael.