Gad Elbaz Concert, Sponsored by Lori Schottenstein, Caps off Exciting Orientation Week
Neon lights—green, blue and red—flickered across the stage. The sustained rasp of a cymbal and a deep, echoing bass filled the theater. More than 300 students began a slow, steady clap, raising their hands high above their heads, as Gad Elbaz took the stage at Yeshiva University’s Geraldine Schottenstein Cultural Center on Thursday night, August 26.
“Mah shlomchem? [How are you]?” he called to the crowd. “You ready to have fun?”
The overwhelming response? “Yeah!”
That fun was made possible by Lori Schottenstein, whose family, based in Columbus, Ohio, has established a legacy of caring and community-building at YU through multiple charitable gifts, and who herself has already brought other megawatts in the Jewish music world, like Avraham Fried and Dudu Fisher, to the University. Those concerts, like Thursday’s, were free for YU students and booked to the hilt.
“‘Simcha’ can mean a lot of things. It can mean song, and it can also mean participation, involvement,” noted Dr. Karen Bacon, The Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean of Stern College for Women, in her address to students before the concert. “Our whole University is about involvement—intellectual involvement in the classroom, spiritual involvement on Shabbat—and I think that’s Lori’s hallmark and a theme in Gad Elbaz’s music as well.”
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Elbaz, an Israeli Jewish singer, has already achieved international success at age 26 with three number one hit songs, “Halayla Zeh Hazman,” “Or” and “Al Neharot Bavel.” His music appeals to both observant and secular listeners by mixing original and biblical texts with ballads, harmonies, Middle Eastern rhythms and modern pop. And he believes that dynamic can make music like his a powerful tool in uniting Jews from different communities and lifestyles.
“He makes this great soulful music; it has a rock feel, but it’s religiously oriented,” explained Sy Syms School of Business senior Or Pikary, who grew up on Elbaz’s work. “And it’s awesome to have a free chance to hear him.”
“Awesome” pretty much sums up the energy in the Cultural Center that night. Glow sticks were tossed out into the audience, becoming neon headbands, necklaces and bangles. Students rose to their feet and joined arms, swaying slowly as they sang “Jerusalem of Gold” in unison, while Elbaz kept time and later joined the audience.
“Having an Israeli artist perform is a great way to cap off Orientation,” said Naomi Friede, who along with four other Stern College women staffed the registration table and also snagged an autograph and a picture with Elbaz. “A lot of new students are just coming back from Israel, and it’s great to have an Israeli performer to show them that connection continues here, too.”
For Eli Shavalian, a freshman psychology major, the concert was just one example of the vibrant atmosphere that drew him to YU. “If you go to the Web site, there are all these exciting events lined up,” he said. “There are so many things offered. I figured, why not try them all?”
In addition to Lori Schottenstein’s concert series, her family’s donations have also established Yeshiva College’s Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program; the Jerome and Geraldine Schottenstein Residence Hall for Stern College on East 29th Street; the Schottenstein Student Center on West 185th Street on the Wilf Campus; and, in 2000, the Geraldine Schottenstein Cultural Center, where Thursday night’s concert took place.
The coolest part of the night? “Hands down, that brocha he just made,” said Zvi Wiesenfeld, referring to the operatic, cymbal-dusted blessing Elbaz recited before taking a sip from his water bottle.