They hit the road in a strange country in the summer to perform 110 high-energy shows in three months —as many as three a day, in all different locations — and visit a new town, stay with a new family, and sleep in a new bed every week. And they’re only 16.
And you think you have a busy schedule.
They are the Israeli Tzofim, or scouts, like Boy and Girl Scouts in America, and a team of eight were in Pittsburgh this week for the 2009 Tzofim Friendship Caravan to sing, dance and to evoke as much Israeli pride in their audiences as they have in themselves.
Each show consists of several song and dance numbers and video presentations, such as tributes to Yiddish, Jerusalem, the IDF and Gilad Shalit, Israeli youth culture, and a tribute to America — “You’ve got a Friend in Me” — culminating with the Hebrew “Let it Be.” Each song features its own colorful costumes, elaborate choreography, and even times when they leave the stage to dance with the audience.
Audiences from American Boy Scouts, to kids at Temple Emanuel of the South Hills, to seniors at the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Squirrel Hill, were visibly moved and enthralled by the performances and the performers.
This schedule would seem tiring but “the audience gives us energy,” said a beaming Yariv Stav, one of the Tzofim after the show at Charles Morris, her 55th. “We really like performing here. They understand the Yiddish, and they start to cry, and that makes us cry, too.”
The Tzofim are no less impressive off stage. “The first thing they do when they get to their new homes is wash their uniforms so they are always clean and presentable,” said Marlene Behrmann-Cohen, one of six host families in the region. “I think they’re very impressive.”
Another host family member, Margaret Kreimer, admired the Tzofim as well.
“They’re very personable and so close together. We’re very happy to have them; it’s a great cultural exchange. They’re quite young but taking on an arduous schedule. They started in Ottawa, and they’re going all over the northeast as far as Northern Virginia. And this is they’re first time in the US,” she said.
The Tzofim Friendship Caravan is in its 36th year, and last performed in Pittsburgh two years ago. They expect to return next year.
(Derek Kwait can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)