The harmonizing voices of four choirs reverberated through HAFTR High School’s capacity filled auditorium to resounding cheers and applause from the audience last Wednesday for HAFTR’s 5th Annual Girls’ Choir Competition.
The high school students’ efforts along with the tickets bought by the parents, teachers, administrators and fellow students and siblings in the audience succeeded in raising close to $2500 for this year’s charity, American Friends of Panim el Panim.
The theme of this year’s meet was unity, and as in past years, all participants embraced the idea, cheering each other on, greeting friends from “opposing” schools with hugs, and clapped or waved their arms in appreciation while the other choirs sang.
HAFTR’s principal, Ms. Naomi Lippman, greeted everyone and Mrs. Rachel Gerstley, HAFTR’s coordinator of the event, delivered a dvar Torah and described the importance of Panim el Panim. Mrs. Gerstley stressed the need for unity among Jews noting that we are “prisoners of our hatred for one another.” During the time of the Purim story, Haman was an existential threat, explained Gerstley, and now we have a nuclear threat. We were described then as being scattered and separate and the first course of action was to “gather people together and reunite them.” She pointed out that in the spirit of Purim, “different schools are coming together to sing for Israel.”
She pointed out that the megillah uses the word vayikahalu, that the Jewish people gathered together against their enemies, the same root word for makhela, choir. She added that Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach, z”l, noted that when people speak, one can say one thing and another can say the opposite and that brings discord. But when one sings one note and another sings another note that brings harmony.
Gerstley explained that Panim el Panim “works to bridge the gap between the secular and the religious in Israel through education. They have connected tens of thousands with their Jewish roots.
On the choir front, all schools sang well. This year HANC was unable to attend but choirs from Central, HAFTR, Shalhevet, and SKA performed and, as in past years, Central won first place and SKA second place. But most importantly was the achdut, unity, when all the choirs climbed onto the stage to sing Purim songs and dance together.
“It was successful, we had a full house and nice spirit,” said Mrs. Gerstley. “It’s become something all the schools look forward to, seeing their friends.”
For more information on Panim el Panim go to www.panimelpanim.org.