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Sounds of celebration
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Sounds of celebration

Eclectic ensemble reflects Israel’s diversity

The Idan Raichel Project played a program of cross-cultural songs at the Yom Ha’atzmaut concert.    
The Idan Raichel Project played a program of cross-cultural songs at the Yom Ha’atzmaut concert.    

The nearly standing-room-only audience barely had time to sit down before they were up on their feet, responding with rhythmic movement and fervent applause to the eclectic and rousing sounds of the Idan Raichel Project.

The music of the Israeli group’s multiethnic members — led by the eponymous keyboardist, composer, and singer — filled Memorial Auditorium on the Montclair State University campus on May 5 for “Celebrate Israel,” the community celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut. Presented by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ to mark the Jewish state’s 66th Independence Day, the concert was cosponsored and supported by a host of community organizations and patrons. The five rishonim — young shlihim, or emissaries, who run cultural and youth programs in the federation community — led the gathering in “Hatikva.” 

Among the most passionate celebrants in the auditorium were young adults and teens from several federation-sponsored programs — Diller Teen Fellows, Kibbutzim College, MetroWest High School in Ra’anana, Peoplehood Project, College Board, and the rishonim — who danced down the aisles to get closer to the artists. The audience included longtime aficionados of Raichel, including a large number of Israelis, who sang along with several numbers.

But the only audience member who had a solo turn with the ensemble on stage had probably seven decades on most of those young fans. During a rousing number, Raichel grabbed a chair for Ann Monka to use as a stepstool to climb up on stage and take a turn dancing with the musician. In her youth, Monka, of Montville, was a member of the Bielski Brigade, a Jewish partisan band sheltering Jews and fighting the Nazis in Belarus. 

The Idan Raichel Project is known for its cross-cultural collaborations and mix of electronics, traditional Hebrew texts, and Arab and Ethiopian music. The musicians at Monday’s performance hailed from Israel, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Sudan. 

Federation president Lori Klinghoffer welcomed the 950 audience members, along with Legow Family Israel Program Center chair Stephanie Sherman (standing in for concert chair Debbie Rovner, who was unable to attend). They thanked the community members who supported the event and gave an overview of the federation’s record of partnerships and projects in Israel.

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