Friday, February 21, 2020

The Jo Ann Magistro Performing Arts Center in East Brunswick was filled with adults and children of all ages on Sunday, February 19, as attendees gathered to hear the Chasidic-pop duo 8th Day in concert. More than 600 people from all across New Jersey and as far away as Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania came out to support Yeshivat Netivot Montessori Day School at its first ever community-wide fundraising event.

The band was introduced with the theme of achdut (unity) as the key component of the afternoon. Supported by horns, drums, bass and a keyboard, 8th Day founders, brothers Shmuel and Bentzion Marcus, presented a rousing performance that had the audience dancing in the aisles from the start. Audience participation was encouraged with finger snapping, hand clapping and a request for a show of light from cell phones. Children were a major part of the show, inspiring the Marcus brothers and bringing them into the audience to form a conga line around the room.

Netivot Upper Elementary head teacher of Jewish studies Rav Darren Levin brought his family to the event to support the school and enjoy a great show. He said he was happy to see many new faces along with the old, and especially the broad spectrum of the Jewish community, in attendance.

The Shenkman family came from Edison for the concert. Although they are not currently affiliated with Netivot, they love 8th Day and thought this would be a good opportunity to explore the Netivot experience. Self-described “huge fans” of 8th Day, the Einhorn family came from Lakewood for the concert as the band does not frequently play in New Jersey. Adina Abramov of Elizabeth described 8th Day as “talented and unique,” with a sound that transcends any one genre.

Shmuel Marcus said that seeing the children dancing made him want to “shvitz and move even more!” The children were also part of the slideshow that looped during the song “Avraham,” which was dedicated by the musicians to the “wonderful children they got to meet.” As the lyrics “Avraham, are we the children that you prayed for?” were sung, pictures of Netivot students were displayed on the screens flanking the room.

The songs were mostly in English, with lyrics about Jewish spirituality. Primarily influenced by traditional Jewish music, hints of reggae, blues, country and rock permeated many of the tunes as well. Crowd pleasers, including YouTube hit “Hooleh,” the reggae-inspired “Bounce,” “Fighter” (Soldiers of Light), the catchy “Celebrate” and, of course, “Ya’Alili” were among the songs that put smiles on the faces of all in attendance.

At the conclusion of the program, VIP ticket holders adjourned to a meet-and-greet session with the Marcus brothers that included picture taking, program and CD autographing, conversation and refreshments before the band headed back to its home base in California.

The event was a result of a trio of enthusiastic parents whose synergistic efforts led to the success of the event. The idea of having a concert was the brainchild of Margalit Gottlieb; the idea of using the Performing Arts Center was Zita Weinstein’s; and the idea of bringing in 8th Day was Julie Weisman’s. Weisman had seen them in concert several years ago and never forgot their inspirational messages and themes, which are very consistent with the mission of the school.

“We believe in and try to promote ideas like Jewish unity, our heritage as children of Avraham Avinu, belief that everything Hashem does is for the best, etc., and we loved the way 8th Day weaves these themes into fun, contemporary music,” Weisman said.

The event came to fruition along with input and support from Netivot Head of School Rivky Ross and Director of Operations and Admissions Michelle Pincus. In addition, fundraising committee board members Zac Gindi (president and parent), Erez Shimoni (parent) and Chavie Taranda (grandparent), and the spouses of the committee heads, were a great help in soliciting sponsorships and providing computer technical support.

The planned concert also served as part of a unique lesson plan for the Netivot students as they Skyped with the Marcus brothers a few days before the concert and had the opportunity to ask them questions.

Raffle tickets for one of three prize packages were sold, and included gift certificates from local restaurants and vendors who sponsored the event. There were also information tables with literature from the yeshiva, various sponsors and the local Jewish Federation.

Pincus was on hand to explain the school’s mission to those unfamiliar with it. “We follow the child. Our students learn at their own rate of speed and are treated with respect, dignity and positive discipline as they prepare for practical life and a future job market.” Weisman noted that students from the school assisted with ushering, selling raffle tickets and setup, in true Montessori fashion.

Attendees were also presented with the opportunity to benefit Netivot by purchasing tickets to win a Tesla Model S-60D. Proceeds from the concert and the raffles go toward the school’s scholarship fund, helping make a Netivot education possible for dozens of families. The mitzvah of charity did not end with the scholarship fund—the concert organizers wanted to especially thank the anonymous donors who donated VIP tickets to Chai Lifeline, Ohel, Yachad and the Friendship Circle, allowing their members to enjoy the event. Thanks also went to the personal sponsors, the raffle sponsors and, of course, to the volunteers who made the day possible.

Yeshivat Netivot was founded in 2001 to create an institution that would offer the Montessori learning experience to Jewish children. The school currently serves over 145 children, from infant through eighth grade. Yeshivat Netivot Montessori is located at 511 Ryders Lane in East Brunswick. For more information, please visit mynetivot.com.

By Deborah Melman