Lynn Berman believes in the power of song, especially when a song is filled with the voices of 350 community members and then combined with groups across the globe.
Berman served as one of two song leaders for a special Koolulam event that took place to raise awareness of the Israeli hostages still being held by Hamas terrorists.
According to its website, Koolulam is a social musical initiative aimed at empowering communities and strengthening the fabric of society. It attempts to bring people of different backgrounds, cultures, faiths and geographies together through collaborative creative experiences.
The group’s YouTube channel features 54 videos and has more than 157,000 followers. Members of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s 2022 Mega Mission were featured in a video of “One Day” by Matisyahu, recorded in the Pittsburgh Partnership2Gether region Karmiel.
“Singing together does something powerful,” Berman said, “and it’s just as powerful for the people that hear it. There’s a power of singing in a large group that you can’t find anywhere else.”
That power was felt on Nov. 5 at Rodef Shalom’s Freehof Hall when more than 300 people came together surrounded by microphones and still and video cameras to sing a rendition of Madonna’s “Just Like a Prayer.”
The event was organized by word of mouth, without the benefit of social media, and was sponsored by StandWithUs and Koolulam and co-sponsored by Adat Shalom and Beth El Congregation of the South Hills.
Adi Perlman, who calls herself a “Koolulam groupie,” first learned of the event through the organization’s newsletter. They were looking for choirs and leaders from around the world.
“I was like, ‘I’m not a very musical person, but I love singing and I love Koolulam, and I’m just going to start doing this,’” Perlman said.
Perlman reached out to her friend Naama Perel-Tzadok, who contacted Berman. Both Perel-Tzadok and Berman served as choir directors and Eileen Freedman accompanied the group, which sang to a backing track of the original song.
“The past 10 days have been spent finding a venue and coordinating,” Perlman said. “Things kind of fell into place.”
Perel-Tzadok said that she is a musician, composer and choir director. She sings with Berman in a Jewish women’s a cappella group. She said that she has worked on similar projects in the past, but nothing of the scope of Koolulam.
Her involvement, she said, was “a way of action.”
“It really helps people to feel like you’re doing something,” she said. “It’s very simple but it’s active and it allows people who want to be active to do something. Music is my tool.”
Temple Sinai Rabbi Emeritus Jamie Gibson opened the event by reading Psalm 20 before Sara Stock Mayo led those in attendance by singing a rendition of “Hatikvah.”
StandWithUs Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Julie Paris told those in attendance that this Koolulam recording is different than every project the group has previously worked on because “we are in a situation that we have never been in before.”
Paris went on to explain that they hoped to empower the families of the 241 hostages held in Gaza for more than 30 days.
“We will raise them up and support them and harvest our energy to bring their families back home,” she said.
Paris made the point that the hostages are comprised of 33 countries, 38 children, Holocaust survivors, mothers, fathers, grandparents and Israeli soldiers.
“In 30 days, we have not had one bit of information about them, including proof of life,” she said.
Her voice heavy with emotion, Paris echoed the thought of many in the crowd, saying the pain of not knowing is unbearable.
By combining with the 100 other communities around the world, Paris said, the Pittsburgh community is unifying in one voice to pray and stand together proudly.
Paris went on to highlight the lives of several hostages taken by Hamas terrorists before explaining that Hamas’ charter calls for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea, by any means necessary.”
She urged those in attendance to not only add their voice to the Koolulam recording but to also reach out to their representatives in the U.S. Senate and House, who, she said, are hearing from anti-Israel activists.
For Berman, creating the video with communities across the globe is focusing a light where it needs to be.
“To know that they’re doing it in many other cities and they’re doing it in Israel feels like a worldwide effort of support for the hostages,” Berman said. PJC
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.