Cantor Tamar Havilio, Head of Cantorial Studies, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, was given the honor from the Israeli Consulate in Warsaw, Poland, to bring a small Israeli choir to participate in the Hajnowka Liturgical Choral Festival from May 15-18, 2014. This was the first time an Israeli choral group performed in this famous choral festival, also a first time for the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism. The choir won a special award from the festival director.
The choir, "Shir Chadash," includes Cantor Havilio, solist and second soprano; Anastasia Sobolev, adjunct faculty at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, conductor; Sari Ganulin, who has completed one year of cantorial studies and currently resides in Israel, first soprano; Shani Ben-Or, program director at Congregation Kol Haneshamah and founder and graduate of HUC-JIR's Tenufa Young Adult Program, alto; Boaz Dorot, who grew up in the Israeli Progressive Movement and serves as songleader and musician for various Reform communities, tenor; and David Benjamin, first-year Israeli rabbinical student, baritone/bass.
They performed in four concerts the works of classic liturgical masterpieces by Lewandowski, Sulzer, and Rossi, as well as Israeli folk music written by Naomi Shemer. One of the concerts took place in a folk festival inside of the famous Bialwieza forest. They also sang Yiddish folk songs in memory of the Jewish souls that perished in the Holocaust in Poland.
Cantor Havilio stated, "It was an honor to be invited as guests of the Israeli Embassy and the Hajnowka Choir Festival, where they have never before had the presence of a Jewish Choir from Israel. It was a bright light for the future and truly expressed how music does indeed save the world. In a large desecrated synagogue in Orla, we sang 'Eli Eli,' 'Ofyn Priepetshik,' 'Esa Einai,' and recited Kaddish Yatom in memory of all those killed in the Holocaust. We did this in the presence of a large choir from Paris, France. They embraced us and told us how very meaningful it was for them to be there with us and the 'music brought the whole world that had once thrived there back to life.' They burst out in 'Heveinu Shalom Aleichem' and we had truly experienced a transportation of time and place."