A weekly program combining Jewish culture with the performing arts is now available to area teenagers, thanks to a team effort between the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, and J-SITE.
Teenagers in grades eight through 12 who are interested in singing can participate in HaZamir: the International Jewish High School Choir. Teenagers who like to dance can join Pittsburgh’s first Jewish Israeli dance troupe. Both groups will rehearse concurrently on Sunday afternoons at the JCC in Squirrel Hill.
“We are hoping to create a space for Jewish performing artists to meet and create art together every week,” said Beth Goldstein, director of teen education at the Agency for Jewish Learning.
While Pittsburgh has had a HaZamir chapter for the last six years, this will be the community’s first foray into creating a performing dance troupe for teenagers, said Goldstein.
“HaZamir is a phenomenal program,” she said. “Each year, the kids go to New York in March, where they meet with 260 teens from all over the United States, Canada and Israel. They all have learned the same new music [in their respective programs], and they rehearse for a weekend together. Last year, for HaZamir’s 18th anniversary, they booked Lincoln Center for their performance. They sold out in a month. They will be singing at Lincoln Center again this year.”
Last year, Pittsburgh’s HaZamir conductor, Nizan Leibovich, took 10 area teenagers to perform with the larger group in New York City. When they returned to Pittsburgh, they performed at various events here, including at the communitywide Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration.
HaZamir Pittsburgh currently has 12 members, but expects to grow the group this year. No audition is required, nor is the ability to read music.
Teenagers who are interested in joining HaZamir, can attend an open rehearsal Sunday, Sept. 18, 4 p.m., at the JCC, Goldstein said, where they can listen to the group perform, and meet Leibovich.
At that same time, teenagers interested in Israeli dance can get information about the newly forming dance troupe. The troupe will be led by Lynn Berman, who recently honed her craft in Israel at the summer course for foreign teachers, part of the Karmiel Dance Festival.
Berman believes her new dance troupe will provide an invaluable opportunity for local Jewish youths.
“A lot of kids do Israeli folk dance at camp, and have a really good time,” she said. “This will be a community thing. The kids can come and meet kids from other areas of the city.”
She and her troupe will be creating a piece to perform at area venues along with HaZamir.
“Hopefully, in a couple of years, we will have the depth and excitement to create a community of artistic Jewish high school kids who want to do these things together,” Berman said.
J-SITE, in collaboration with the JCC, hopes to expand its performing arts program for teens, adding different disciplines to the curriculum over time.
“Our long-term vision is that we are hoping to add some sort of band as well, maybe Klezmer,” Goldstein said. “We want to take it one step at a time. But we really want to create a space for these artistic teens.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)