HUC-JIR has five remarkable first-year students in the School for Sacred Music and has recently piloted a new project in conjunction with JTS first-year cantorial students. The project is not only unique because it is the first time the students are working and learning together in Jerusalem, but additionally, all the first year students from both HUC-JIR and JTS are women.
The Joint Program of Women's Song was planned by Professor Eliyahu Schleifer and Hazzan Marlena Fuerstman, the Directors of the Jerusalem cantorial programs of HUC-JIR and JTS, respectively. The project received the enthusiastic support of Dr. Bruce Ruben, Director of the School of Sacred Music of HUC-JIR, and Cantor Henri Rosenblum, Dean of the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of JTS. The Joint Program of Women's Song began with an exciting first day, when the eleven cantorial students (5 women from HUC-JIR and 6 women from JTS) spent the day together learning with renowned and diverse Israeli musicians. After a joint Shacharit service, students had six workshops, learning about musical traditions and Sephardic, Bucharian, Farsi, Iraqi and Yemenite songs, in addition to a drumming session. Musicians included: Yair Harel, one of the most well-known percussionist-singers in Israel; Maureen Nehedar, born in Iran and a specialist in traditional Persian music; Ruth Yaakov, who has performed worldwide and leads workshops in Israeli and Jewish music and dancing, and Yemenite Gilah Beshari, singing both traditional women's and men's songs and prayers. Ms. Beshari has influenced several Israeli composers to write contemporary music for her to perform. She has appeared with both the Jerusalem Symphony and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestras in tours around the world.
The HUC-JIR and JTS Cantorial students have been paired up and each pair will work with one of the musicians. They will have a series of private lessons to learn about the musical traditions and to acquire an initial repertoire of songs. A joint concert, between the HUC-JIR and JTS cantorial students working together, is planned for spring 2008 where the students will highlight what they have learned from these diverse performers. A similar concert is planned to be given next year in New York.
Vicky Glikin, one of the HUC-JIR cantorial students, wrote to Dr. Bruce Ruben, Director of the School of Sacred Music: "I wanted to let you know how incredible it was to be a part of today's Women's Music conference on the Jerusalem campus... I walked away from our workshops with a greatly increased knowledge and appreciation of the tremendous variety of Jewish musical expression. I think I can speak for our entire class in saying that we're very excited to be working with these fascinating women for the coming couple of months and to also be making connections with the students from JTS."