Pizmon, the co-ed pluralistic Jewish a cappella group from Columbia University, Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, is coming to Pittsburgh to deliver a family-friendly concert in Congregation Beth Shalom’s main sanctuary on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The scheduled 90-minute show is a collaboration between the synagogue’s Derekh program, Community Day School and J-JEP, and was made possible by a grant from the Department of Jewish Life and Learning of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Apart from their Saturday evening act, which through unique lighting will attempt to create an experience of being in an area other than a prayer space, the group will perform throughout the weekend, said Judith Adelson, chair of the Derekh culture portal. On Friday, Pizmon will sing and speak with students at Community Day School. On Saturday they will visit the Second Floor at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and discuss Jewish life on campus. That evening, following their scheduled set at Beth Shalom, Pizmon will perform at a private fundraising event at the synagogue. On Sunday the group will visit J-JEP and participate in another student-focused session.
Pizmon’s visit represents a gift back to the community, explained Robin Freyberg, an alumna of Pizmon. Shortly after arriving in Pittsburgh two years ago, Freyberg felt immediately welcomed by Pittsburghers. In an effort to say thank you, she worked over the past year to bring Pizmon here.
“I thought it would be amazing for the community,” said Freyberg, who sang with the group between 1997 and 2001 while a student at Columbia University.
Rabbi Jeremy Markiz, Beth Shalom’s director of Derekh and youth tefillah, who worked with Freyberg and others on welcoming the group, said he’s “always searching for cultural methods for inspiring community.”
Pizmon is made up of college students and “they represent the future,” said Markiz. “College is quintessentially a time for engagement and new experiences, and having those college students here encourages us to try new things.”
CDS Head of School Avi Baran Munro similarly raved about the group’s arrival.
“Pizmon could not be coming to CDS and Pittsburgh at a more important time,” she said. “We look forward to uniting our dynamic community this Shabbat by sharing in the beautiful Jewish spirit of their music and to showing our students how vibrant Jewish life can be at the university level.”
Regarding the limited time between their visit and the murders at the Tree of Life building, “it is important to focus on the positive,” said Adelson.
Although the period of mourning continues, Pizmon was sensitive to the community’s needs, she explained. At first Pizmon considered canceling, “but what developed from conversations was the realization that the group will provide an experience as uplifting as possible.”
She hopes the power of their music serves as “the balm to help with the healing process.”
“I thought this weekend would be a really important source of healing for our community,” she said.
“There is a power in music and song,” echoed Markiz. “Song and music is a language that all human beings share. It’s universal, and bringing music into this world in order to bring us together is great.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.