More than 70 people braved inclement weather to attend the “Celebrate Jerusalem Concert” in Forest Hills on Tuesday, June 18.
The annual concert was inaugurated by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and has continued during Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s tenure. The event alternated between the Young Israel of Hillcrest and MacDonald Park in Forest Hills in the past.
“Originally, the concert was always before Yom Yerushalayim and originally held in synagogues,” said Avi Weinberg, Jewish Liaison for the Borough President. Borough President Katz wanted the concert in MacDonald Park because her synagogue is the Forest Hills Jewish Center, and she also “wanted to enhance community,” said Weinberg.
Due to persistent rain, the concert was held indoors in the Crystal Room of the Forest Hills Jewish Center. Borough President Katz sang the Israeli national anthem, HaTikvah, in Hebrew, and then the Star Spangled Banner, America’s anthem.
“We are living in difficult times with an uptick in anti-Semitic crimes,” said Katz. “It’s important to get together, to show pride, and love for Israel.”
“This is a celebration of Yerushalayim, the center, the heartbeat of the Jewish world, said Rabbi David Keehn, past president of the Queens Jewish Community Council.
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center said that Jews “were celebrating Jerusalem long before the 1967 Six-Day War.”
Rabbi Skolnik read Psalm 122, which says in part, “to pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper that love thee” and ends with, “For the sake of the house of Hashem, I will seek thy good.”
Israeli musician Yoel Sharabi started his set with a Mizrachi version of “Avinu Malkeinu.” The slowest song he played during the evening was “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”) that had attendees singing along. Sharabi also played “Shab’chi Yerushalayim” and “Al Chomotayich Yerushalayim.”
Sharabi engaged the audience by talking about growing up poor in Israel, the youngest of ten in a Yemenite family. Yoel Sharabi played his brother, Boaz Sharabi’s song, “T’ni Li Yad.”
Backing Sharabi was the famed guitarist, Greek-born Avram Pengas, who started the club, Noga, in Greenwich Village. Sharabi credited Pengas for teaching him the Spanish song, “Malagenia,” which they performed. Alicia Sunshine on Bass and David Malka on drums were tight and more than capable.
Other songs performed included: “Al Tashlicheini” (Don’t Forsake Me), “Mahapeichah shel Simchah,” and “Kinor David.” Sharabi played a Ladino song, “Avretu,” and “Zorba the Greek.” He closed with the high energy, techno song, “Mahapeichah shel Simchah.”
Yoel Sharabi “was high energy and uplifting.” It was great to see the other musicians with him, said Batsheva Flatow. Tuvia Rosenbaum said, “Yoel Sharabi is so talented” with “amazing melodies.” Carmella Schwartz said Sharabi brought world music and Israeli music to the concert. “He’s got energy in abundance.” “Great music, great songs, very entertaining,” said Raizy Weiss, “and he looks so young!”
The “Celebrate Jerusalem Concert” was co-sponsored by the Queens Borough President, Queens Jewish Community Council, Forest Hills Jewish Center, and City Councilmember Karen Koslowitz. There were police officers both inside and outside the venue guarding the site.
By David Schneier