‘Repairing the World’ Through Song
A preview by Marc Shulgold
It was a scene right out of a movie: In the fall of 2013, Leah Peer was strolling along a street in Jerusalem with her mother, Ruth Keusch, discussing what they could do to help those in need – specifically, the residents of Woman to Woman, the . And just then, who should walk by? Naomi Schneiderman, the director of that shelter.
As the trio greeted each other and talked, none of them seemed particularly surprised by this serendipity. “My mother claims she’s telepathic – these kinds of things just seem to happen,” Peer recalled. Turns out that Keusch had recently filmed a short documentary about the shelter.
As the conversation progressed, Peer began to set her sights on using her Denver-based women’s choir, Kol Nashim, to perform tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that refers to “repairing the world.” In this case, helping those sheltered women in Israel.
Peer’s group, numbering 16, is under the umbrella of the Colorado Hebrew Chorale and its membership includes a few singers from the Chorale, but its focus is on more than singing Jewish music. This will be evident when Kol Nashim presents concerts this month to benefit Woman to Woman.
“I had formed the group in 2013 so we could expand our mission of extending interest in Jewish music. We want to enhance Jewish identity, to connect with a bigger community of women.” explained the conductor, who settled in Denver in 2007 after working as a performing pianist in Buffalo and Jacksonville, Florida.
The connection between the Jerusalem shelter and Kol Nashim (whose name means “voice of women”) dates back prior to the formation of the chamber choir. Previously, Peer had done charitable work for SafeHouse Denver, a women’s shelter situated near downtown. “My daughter and I did a benefit concert for them,” she said. “And we collected old cell phones to donate to the residents.”
In January, 2014, not long after that chance encounter on the streets of Jerusalem, the board of Colorado Hebrew Chorale voted to support Peer’s idea. The first “Woman to Woman” concert took place in May of that year, and raised $1,400. The following year, two concerts netted $2,800, with the funds raised at all three events matched by an anonymous donor.
This year’s program, offered on Sunday in Evergreen and May 26 in Denver, will offer a variety of selections, ranging from liturgical to traditional songs to more recent tunes dealing with issues that women face, such as aspects of appearance. The group will sing in Hebrew, Yiddish and Aramaic, in addition to English. The video shot by the conductor’s mother will also be shown.
Funds raised by these programs will be delivered to Schneiderman in person when Peer next visits Israel. The conductor gave special praise to the Jerusalem shelter for housing battered women of all religions and cultures.
“This is our way of connecting with Israel,” she said of Kol Nashim’s benevolence. “But more than that, we’ll be doing our part to fix the world. It’s all about inclusion, about reaching out to the less fortunate.”
Kol Nashim will perform at 4 p.m. Sunday in Congregation Beth Evergreen, 2981 Bergen Peak Drive, Evergreen, and at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 26, in Temple Sinai, 3509 South Glencoe St. The group has also scheduled performances next month in Colorado Springs and Boulder. Information: (303)355-0232 or coloradohebrewchorale.org