Joining Cultures Through Song
Submitted by Jodie Kitchens
“My mitzvah project was to link across our modern tribes, across land and sea and culture and language. “ – Hart Isaacoff, Bar Mitzvah candidate
On Sunday, May 22nd, the youth of Beth Ahabah buzzed around the community room, excitedly awaiting the presentation of a service project that was months in the making. At the center of this buzz, Hart Isaacoff, Bar Mitzvah candidate, moved through the room to make sure that the choir students and the technology was ready for the big moment. The time was almost here.
Over the 10 weeks before this celebration, Hart worked with Vladina Blanc and Ronaldo Telusca from Haiti Partners, creating a cultural collaboration in the form of a song and associated video. Their goal was to create a melody and lyrics that reflected their collective hope for the future. Connecting each week via video conferencing, Hart, Vladina, and Ronaldo learned about each other, laughed and wrote a song: after weeks of work, “Believe” was performed by the WOZO Choir and the Beth Ahabah youth band, Ruach Chadash.
Ramona Brand, Education Director at Beth Ahabah, was particularly drawn to this project because “music brings out that democratic spirit because it’s such a shared experience.” She was particularly proud of the commitment of synagogue students in learning Creole to add to the experience.
A Mitzvah service project is just one part of becoming an adult in faith, with the student responsible for upholding the Mitzvot or commandments of the Jewish faith. After the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, boys and girls bear their own responsibility for Jewish ritual law, tradition, and ethics, and are able to participate in all areas of Jewish community life. Projects are chosen by the student to reflect how you can use your talents to make a difference in the world.
The team used their time and talents to get to know one another and understand their cultures in a deeper way. Ronaldo expressed it well – “When you create a song for your own culture, you know how people will react. When writing a song for others you have to be sensitive and understand. So we spent time talking about that.”
With these new friends, Hart showed the ability to engage others and share joy through music and we are so grateful that he reached this milestone for himself while encouraging others to connect through song. Hart left us with his view of project – “I believe that art can truly lift the human spirit.”