Zimriyah 2015: Bringing People Together

On Sunday, March 15, I led the Toronto Zimriyah – The Jewish Children’s Choral Festival – for my seventh time. It was a huge success and, as always, incredibly rewarding. About 500 kids from various Jewish day schools and supplementary schools participated. It’s a beautiful experience seeing so many Jewish children gather together to celebrate their culture in song. The Julia and Henry Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education, UJA Federation’s educational centre, should be applauded for sponsoring the event on a yearly basis.

While everyone wants to do their best, the atmosphere isn’t one of competition but of celebration and community. In order to underline this objective, all 14 choirs sing together at several points in the concert. I determine the material for these moments and I conduct them. it’s a very fulfilling experience.

The rest of the concert features each choir singing alone. Each one gets to shine in their own unique way. And they are unique. There’s a great deal of variety in their song selections, musical styles, musical accompaniment (sometimes by children themselves), appearance, and even choreography. It would be easy, though, to have kids from one school be disinterested in the remainder of the performance once their own choir has already performed.

What I did to combat this was to keep the kids engaged even when it wasn’t their own turn to sing. Following one choir’s presentation, I would invite kids from another choir to come up on the stage and answer a few questions about what he or she just watched. And because I also wanted to make sure that they remained supportive and positive, I would ask questions like, “Which song did you like the most? Why?” and “How was this choir different from your choir?”

For the adults, I created a Twitter hashtag: #Zimriyah2015. They could be part of an online conversation about the event. Here are some of the tweets about this year’s Zimriyah:

Love listening to my son singing with his friends from across Toronto Jewish Day Schools at #Zimriyah2015

#Zimriyah 2015 now includes commentary from students on performance of other schools! How beautiful!

#Zimriyah2015 Leo Baeck Junior High. Gorgeous harmony! #beautiful

Great example of the FULL Jewish community coming together.

Amazing that some kids are playing their own instruments. Important way to teach a love of music

#Zimriyah2015 what a special event!

And now for something completely different. All choirs singing עשה שלום from their seats. Great idea.

Kol hakavod! Parents, teachers, and especially children should be so proud!

Wow, what beautiful voices, beautiful event

Mazel tov to all those involved with #Zimriyah2015. Great performance! Can’t wait til next year!

Preparing the Zimriyah is a lot of work and the day itself is exhausting. However, it is so rewarding to see the kids singing and being so happy – and seeing the response from parents.

Can’t wait ’til next year!

Zimriyah 2015

Videos from Previous Zimriyahs