Words are the language of the mind. Music is the language of the soul….The Torah is God’s libretto, and we, the Jewish people, are God’s choir, the performers of God’s choral symphony. Indeed, it is our choirs and the music they generate that help create many of our most uplifting and highly spiritual moments.
- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, emeritus chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth
The Ruach Etz Chaim Choir of Congregation Etz Chaim is made up of congregants of varying musical abilities and backgrounds, who share a love of music. Originally formed as a choir to enhance High Holy Day services, it has evolved into a choir that also sings on special occasions (mostly at Shabbat services) throughout the year. The melodies they choose to sing range from traditional to more contemporary. As an example, the choir debuted an original melody for Sim Shalom, written by Meir Ovadia, a local composer and lyricist. Meir has given the choir his music for a few other songs that they hope to sing in the near future.
The co-directors of the choir are Barbara Taggart Milberg and Emmy Friedenberg. Barbara teaches and leads the choir, while Emmy tends to the administrative tasks. They encourage any congregants who enjoy singing to join them. The ability to read Hebrew or to read music is not a requirement. Some choir members prefer to learn from reading the music, while others prefer to learn from listening to the music. An effort is made to accommodate both styles of learning whenever possible. Music hand-outs are prepared both in Hebrew and in transliteration, giving individuals the choice to use whichever is most comfortable for them.
The Pri Yadeiha Choir of Congregation Etz Chaim is a group of female congregants, who have formed a women’s choir. Their signature song, Lev Tahor, was written by Rachel Covitch, and dedicated to her mother, Marianne Nidich, one of the choir members. The Pri Yadeiha Choir performs occasionally at Shabbat morning services. Most recently they performed at a Shabbat morning service that was led entirely by women. Membership in this choir is open to any women congregants who love to sing. As with Ruach Etz Chaim, the ability to read Hebrew or to read music is not a requirement.