Jan 21, 2009 — The grand ballroom of Jerusalem’s Ramada Hotel was awash in sopranos and altos on the evening of Jan. 17, as thousands of young women gathered for the 11th Annual Kol Chatan v’Kol Kallah Inter-Seminary Choir Competition, co-sponsored by Yeshiva University and the social action group Kedma.
The competition has grown exponentially in the last decade, from an informal contest in a coffee house to a much-anticipated bonanza in which groups from 16 different religious programs for post-high school young women each present a five-minute song (and, usually, dance) presentation.
This year, the songs revolved around the themes of “Land of Israel” and “Weddings.” More than 2,000 girls and women from all over Israel came to enjoy the show, which is judged by a panel of 18, one woman from each seminary and two representing YU.
Proceeds from the event were donated to a fund for needy brides, administered by Rabbanit Bracha Kapach, who was awarded the Israel Prize for her extensive work in assisting the poor. Even before the ticket booth opened at the competition, advance sales had exceeded 40,000 shekels.
“We want to make a statement,” said Danielle Sacks, a choir singer from Midreshet Lindenbaum, before the contest started. “We worked hard together, we’re having a great time and we’re gonna sing our hearts out.”
Ayala Maurer, a London native learning at Sha’alvim for Women, said that her entire school had been preparing for this event for three months, noting that non-choir members helped create costumes and posters to raise school spirit. “Being from London, I didn’t know so much about YU,” Maurer said. “I see it’s a great organization that does good things. Everyone here is going to Stern!”
Those who are planning to attend YU next year indeed expressed pride that the University was supporting the competition.
School spirit, though, was focused entirely on the seminaries, and high-pitched chants of “Michlalah! Michlalah!” and “MMY! MMY!” filled the auditorium whenever there was a break in activities. In welcoming the students, President Richard M. Joel joked, “There is no man on the face of the earth more intimidated than I am right now.”
He also acknowledged that war was raging in Gaza and Southern Israel, telling the all-female audience, “As soldiers are fighting, as people are in pain and in fear, we are not ignoring that. Our singing is what is possible because they care about our futures and are working to protect it.”
Dr. Karen Bacon, The Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean of Stern, also addressed the students. “This event represents the unleashing of the creative energies of Jewish women in the name of chesed [loving kindness], medinat Yisrael [the State of Israel] and Jewish unity,” Dean Bacon said. “This year is so special for all of you, and I know you’ll want to continue the type of relationships you have here with Israel and with Torah. At YU, that relationship is very firm.”
The first-place prize went to Midreshet Harova, whose cast of 49 young women, including 41 singers, wove together songs by Matisyahu and Blue Fringe with Israeli flag movements, a dvar Torah and costumes evocative of the Old City’s Jewish Quarter – including two students dressed as cats. Their theme was “If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem.”
The Tomer Devorah seminary and Michlalah won the 2nd and 3rd place awards, respectively. The performance by Tomer Devorah combined strong vocals, gymnastics and synchronized dance moves with songs and monologues emphasizing Jews’ strength despite tragedies throughout history. The Michlalah students featured strong, soulful soloists and a performance that included gymnastics and a message on the importance of reveling in the values of our own culture.
Darchei Binah won a special mention for raising the most funds for Rabbanit Kapach’s wedding fund.
Other participating seminaries were Midreshet Yeud; Midreshet AMIT; Bnot Torah Institute (Sharfman’s); Tiferet; Machon Maayan; Midreshet Tehilla; Midreshet Lindenbaum; MMY; Midreshet Moriah, Nishmat; Sha’alvim for Women; and Baer Miriam.
Overall, the choir competition proved to be “one more example of how we can channel the talents and strengths of these young women in a way that combines fun, chesed, creativity and Torah values,” said Stephanie Strauss, assistant director of Yeshiva University’s S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program. “It allows the students to work as a team and to express their Judaism through song and dance – just as they will have opportunities to do if they choose to attend Yeshiva University.”
“This event shows that YU is involved in the lives of students in Israel,” said Shira Preil, who is studying at Michlalah on her way to the Stern College Honors Program next fall. “They brought us together to have fun and do a mitzvah.”