Written by Yossi Zweig
In Eretz Yisrael and across the world, we cry out in tefillah with broken hearts filled with yearning.
Thirty Seven years ago, a young Sheya Mendlowitz spent a life changing Shabbos in a special needs camp in upstate NY. When he witnessed first hand the level of care and commitment not to mention love that the staff of Camp HASC had for these special neshamos he was amazed. Upon hearing that the government funds for the camp was being cut and that the camp would have to close, Sheya realized that something would need to be done. In Sheya’s own words “Hashem put a an idea into my head.” What if we could hold a gala concert fundraiser, the likes of which the world had never seen before. Maybe, just maybe we could raise the funds to keep this magical place open for those who desperately need it. And so it came to be. Mordechai Ben David and Avraham Fried started in a show unlike any other until that time. In glorious and prestigious Manhattan venues where jewish concerts have never been.
This past Sunday, Camp HASC celebrated the 37th annual Time For Music concert, and Sheya’s legacy lives on. Masterfully produced by Shloime Steinmeitz and his hand picked team by Pivot group, concert gores were treated to four hours and the biggest names in Jewish music. But how to start off such a momentous show. How about a live marching band playing the iconic HASC intro walking down the aisles and making their way on stage to join the mastero of the night Mendy Hershkowitz and his orchestra for the opening medley. It was a sight to behold. With our veteran MC the one and only Nachum Segal at the helm, a time for Unity was about to begin. Who would perform first.
When we all heard the powerful voice belt out a Lo Yisa Goy El Goy Cherev it was evident that the incomparable Shulem would be up first. Accompanied by the HASC choir consisting of six talented vocalist each in their own right, the performance was electric. The medley continued with The Exodus Song, Mi Sheberach, Kehilos Hakodesh, Bring Him Home and finally Shulem's very own Kiddush Hashem. It seems each time I see Shulem perform, his stage presence and vocal prowess just blow me away. What a great start to the night.
Next up was Benny Friedman. He started off with his song Yehudi Ze Hachi, a song I happen to love and doesn’t get performed often enough. With the theme of the night being unity, that song fit perfectly. Next Benny performed his brand new single Lo Lefached. The song has some amazing twists and turns in the medley written by Yitzchok Rosenthal and is very pretty. Benny performed it perfectly and those that weren’t families with the song were already searching for it on 24 Six before the performance was over. From there it kept getting better and better. A Yidwritten by Chayale Neuhaus has pretty much become a staple in jewish homes, schools, camps and… well everywhere. With the emotionally charged A Yid winding down and closing the set with Yama one of Benny's newest hits, a phone appears on the screen in from of us. It’s Bennys, and he is getting a WhatsApp from Ari Hill. The voice note is Ari asking if maybe they could perform something together Beyachad, special for HASC. Naturally Benny says yes. Israeli singer Ari Hill walks on stage for his HASC debut. The two perform on of the biggest songs in jewish music from Hanan Ben Ari, Shvurei Lev. It was a moving performance and their voices blended in “perfect harmony.” Another HASC standout moment of the night.
Nachum then announces that he was just informed that the Stein family has graciously donated $250,000 towards a bunkhouse because of the enjoyment of the show thus far.Wow! Next up was something the likes have which haven’t been seen in the jewish world possibly even the secular world as well. Making his HASC debut was Israeli singer Shalom Bernholtz singing alongside a hologram, yes a hologram of Reb SHLOMO CARLEBACH!!! Everyone was in shock. It must have been AI generated, and very much lifelike. The two played off each other singing Shoma Tefilosi a new song composed by the talented young singer from Israel Shalom Bernholtz. It was definitely a memorable moment and a first for Jewish music.
It was time for a new artist who I have been keeping an eye on. Israel singer and songwriter SHMUEL making his HASC debut. This guy has so much chein, energy and a melodious voice that you just want to tap your foot and smile. He performed his hit pop song Nekudot. It was such a breath of fresh air. Reminded me of the HASC of old when we were introduced to some insane talent that the world has yet to discover. Though he is a relative new artist with only five singles or so, he has a verybright future ahead of him. Shmuel continued with his hit ballad Ten Li Tefillah. What I loved most about this performance was that Shmuel had the band quiet down so we could sing with him. He then went on to translate the words to English which gave me a deeper understanding for the song and better appreciation. For his final song, Shmuel invited out superstar singer Mordechai Shapiro to perform Yesh Bi Emunah with him. Though the song was recorded together by these two artists, this would be their first time performing it live together. The crowd definatly knew this one. Fans took out their phones and the room was all lit up. It was the perfect way to end this young stars introduction to the HASC audeince.
With Shmuel leaving the stage, it was time for Mordy Shap. He started off his set with a one of his most famous singles that has never been released on an album Ein Od MIlvado.With the powerful vocals that only Mordy can deliver, everyone was dancing in their seats with this pop him. To slow things down and to re-introduce the theme of the night, Mordy went on to sing his own composition Achas off his latest album.This song is always a crowd favorite. The message of togetherness was reverbating throughout the room. With eveyone all mellow from Achas, Mordy invites his good friend Benny Friedman back on stage. This next performance was a mashup of Ivri Anoichi and Ani Yehudi. There was so much back and forth that the good feelings were contagious. Benny singing Mordys song, Mordy singing Ivri Anoichi it was thoroughly fun for everyone. Mordy closed his solo set with B'yachad a song about friends and togetherness.
Next Mordy invited Baruch Levine to join him on stage and the two performed Baruch's hit song Zeh Hakatan off his latest album originally performed by Baruch and Shmueli Ungar. There was great energy between the two and it was a pleasant surprise. The show continued with Baruch taking his place at the piano and performing some of his hits including; Shabbos Hayom Lashem, Ain Aroich and Bitchu together with Benny Friedman. The two really complimented each other and it was great to hear these classics. Shulem joined the duo singing Baruch's Lecha Dodi, Kol Haberuim and cosing out the set withTouched By A Niggun. It was some great Jewish music with the nostalgic feel.
Nachum Segal was back with an announcement that surprised us all. A camper from Camp HASC was getting his wish tonight with the performance of his favorite song at the show. Shulem was welcomed back to the stage and making his HASC debut for this very special debut all the way from the holy land was Alex Clare. The song was titled Beautiful World. While I am not farmilier with the song, I very much enjoyed the way Alex's raspy voice and Shulems silky one complimented each other. Definatly another moments to remember.
After an inspiring dvartorah and thanks from Rav Judah, it was time for another unique multimedia interaction with the actor and the big screen. He was scrolling through a phone, playing games and then looking through music until he came to music by Avraham Fried. We all understood it was time for the headliner to make his appearance. Avremel started off with a oldies medey called Goodbye medley of some of his golden hits including; Golus Goodbye, Giants Shoulders, A Little Bit of Light and forever One. The set ended with Avremele walking up the stairs and belting out the final lyric Forever One. Avremel seems to get better each time I hear him. His powerful voice with that warm tone. His energy? He was dancing and running across the stage like a young man in his 20's. This was what we were waiting for.
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A Time to Cry...
It’s a dichotomy we know well. As frum, believing Jews, this disparity in emotions is something we’re intimately familiar with. We know what it’s like to mourn while we dance, to grieve while we sing, to feel our brothers’ pain even while we continue to serve Hashem with joy. Today, in the face of unspeakable horrors and a grave threat to our brethren in Eretz Yisroel, we arrive at that unsettling place again. How to keep singing, celebrating, living our mundane lives, while our nation is under attack.
But Hashem instructs us to carry on, to serve Him with joy even as we grieve for the fallen and the families whose lives were so tragically shattered. With the guidance of Gedolim, we’ve decided to proceed with the annual HASC Concert this year, as an evening of chizuk, inspiration, and unity in a time of great darkness.