Fostering cultural connections: HaZamir Jerusalem and Providence


In a remarkable display of cultural exchange and unity, teens from HaZamir Jerusalem and HaZamir Providence recently embarked on a transformative cultural experience, fostering strong bonds of friendship and understanding between their communities. Generously supported by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, the World Zionist Organization (WZO), the JCCA, The Consulate General of Israel to New England as well as many temples in the community, this initiative aimed to create a platform for meaningful dialogue, collaboration and exploration of diverse perspectives.

The program, which took place from March 31 to April 4, 2024, included a series of engaging activities and programs. From home hospitality and joint performances, to visits to various synagogues and cultural centers, to meetings with community leaders, the teens had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the richness of Jewish life in both Jerusalem and Providence.

One of the highlights of the visit was the chance for the Israeli teens to share their experiences and perspectives on life in Jerusalem, particularly in the aftermath of the events of Oct. 7. Through conversations and performances, they offered their unique insights, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the complexities of life in Israel now.

The visit also provided a chance for the Providence Jewish community to deepen its engagement with Israel and the HaZamir movement. Community groups, synagogues and youth gatherings were part of the schedule, and the teens met with them, listened to their stories and participated in open dialogues, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose. The teenagers visited the Jewish Community Day School of Providence and spoke to the students; they went to Tamarisk Assisted Living and met with the residents; they spoke with the seniors at the Kosher Cafe. At Temple Habonim, in Barrington, teens from HaZamir and Barrington gathered for a campfire.

Throughout the week-long program, the teens from both communities forged lasting connections, engaged in meaningful conversations and participated in various cultural activities. From exploring the RISD museum and walking along the Bay to attending a Hebrew conversation session at Temple Emanu-El and visiting the Pinball Museum, the visit offered a well-rounded and immersive experience.

On Wednesday night, April 3, both HaZamir Jerusalem and Providence had the opportunity to perform in front of the Rhode Island community. More than 200 people, including children, families and adults, showed up to support the teens and to get to know them. It was so special during this time to hear the teenagers singing “Acheinu” and “Chai.” They brought so much ruach (spirit) and light to the community.

The culmination of the visit was the HaZamir Festival in Stamford, Connecticut, where the teens from Jerusalem and Providence joined over 300 other HaZamir participants from across the country and Israel. That lasted from April 4-7. On the final day, all the delegations, wearing "Bring Them Home, Now" tags and yellow ribbons, stood on the stage of Carnegie Hall in New York City singing for Israel and advocating for the release of hostages.

The participants left with a renewed sense of unity, diversity and mutual respect – values that lie at the heart of this initiative. The success of this program paves the way for future collaborations and exchanges, strengthening the bonds between communities and fostering a deeper appreciation for the richness of Jewish heritage and culture.

HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir provides an opportunity for accomplished young singers to perform great Jewish music at the highest standard of excellence. HaZamir has long served as a training ground for the next generation of singers, conductors and leaders, investing in young people so that they have a deeper understanding of the values and traditions of Judaism through artistic expression. HaZamir is a program of the Zamir Choral Foundation.

ELIHAY SKITAL is the Rhode Island Jewish community shaliach (Israeli emissary). He is an alum of HaZamir Askelon in Israel.

HaZamir, Israel, choir, Carnegie Hall