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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Jerusalem Youth Chorus Performance


On Oct. 22, singer Mira Awad and the Jerusalem Youth Chorus (JYC) conducted a virtual performance for the Sidwell community. The performance was held in response to the recent war between Israel and Hamas as a way to help community members musically process current events and spark constructive dialogue.

Founded by Washington native and Sidwell alumni Micah Hendler in 2012, the chorus unites Israeli and Palestinian high school students in song and dialogue. Young singers travel the world, sing traditional and popular songs in Arabic, English and Hebrew, and lead conversations to inspire peace.

JYC has grown increasingly popular and received critical acclaim worldwide. They have collaborated with international stars, making a music video with Ziggy Marley, appearing on shows such as Late Night with Stephen Colbert and running worldwide workshops, including one at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Hendler says music is a powerful tool to unite singers and their varying musical traditions and perspectives.

 “One of the things that’s important about JYC, and what I’ve learned about trying to build bridges through music in general, is it’s not just as simple as everyone singing one style of music that I like or they like; there is an importance in really reaching people where they are, not just politically but also musically,” said Hendler in a Horizon interview.

A crucial part of the chorus has been its integration of languages, cultures and different musical techniques that are culturally specific. 

“These all help people to feel the space belongs to them, and it’s essential to be super sensitive to that because we’re trying to create a shared musical space,” Hendler told Horizon. “We try to honor the traditions the singers bring to the ensemble, and a lot of that is musical.” 

The traditions highlighted by the chorus reflect overlap as well as distinct differences. Even within Israeli music traditions, Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewish traditions differ, and Sephardic music shares roots with some Arabic music.

Hendler finds the musical overlap to be interesting. Specifically, Hendler sees similarities between Sephardic music traditions and Arabic music as they possess a lot of shared cultural references and the same sense of togetherness. 

Hendler added that there are several differences between what is musically symbolic and what feels central and essential. 

“In general, we look at the songs holistically. We try as much as possible to ensure everybody feels represented,” said Hendler. “What’s important is if there are enough songs that everybody feels like they have an opportunity to shine in a unique way that feels like them, and if not, how do we find those songs for singers.” 

In 2017, Forbes gave Hendler a prestigious spot on their “30 Under 30” list. Hendler believes his success is due to his experience of contributing to his best ability regardless of context, including the sense of community he found growing up in singing groups. In particular, Hendler recounts his senior project working with Dr. AJ Barnwell to learn about African American singing traditions as a source of inspiration and a powerful learning experience.

Hendler has aimed to share the community through the chorus and the joy music has brought him. 

“I just saw that as a musician, I could contribute by using music to make people feel part of things,” said Hendler. “I ultimately found a way to create something that would resonate with people.”

Hendler now serves as a mentor for the Sidwell community and was a speaker at Let Your Life Speak Day in 2023. His advice to high schoolers hoping to make a powerful social impact is to be eager to learn from mentors or teachers. 

“People who otherwise think they have no business making time for a high schooler may be inclined to help if you ask an excellent question that shows you’ve done your homework, are thoughtful, and just want to help,” explained Hendler.

JYC believes its mission is more vital to the world now than ever. While the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and subsequent war between Israel and Hamas derailed their live performance at the Kennedy Center on Oct. 23, the Arts Center and the National Symphony Orchestra pivoted and coordinated a virtual conference that day. Although the chorus has suspended operations amid the Israel–Hamas war, Hendler hopes that the JYC will return and revive hope.

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About the Contributor
Naomi Sedwick ’26
Naomi Sedwick ’26, Social Media Manager
Naomi Sedwick is currently a Social Media Manager for Horizon. Prior to this, she worked as a Staff Writer for the newspaper.
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