Connecting cultures through singing

The world-famous Yale University Whiffenpoofs will be coming to Israel for performances in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

June 17, 2013 21:38
3 minute read.
The Yale Whiffenpoofs will perform in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Yale Whiffenpoofs370. (photo credit: Harold Shapiro)

More than just a singing group, the Yale Whiffenpoofs are one of the oldest collegiate a cappella groups that seeks to connect cultures through music. On their world tour of 26 countries, the Whiffenpoofs will stop in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to perform for the Israeli population tonight and tomorrow.

Yale University is filled with many choirs of varying degrees of recognition, but one group stands apart. At the end of junior year, select male a cappella singers are chosen to join the Whiffenpoofs, who were founded in 1909 and have since become world-renowned.

Micah Hendler, a member of the 2011 Whiffenpoofs, told The Jerusalem Post that “The Whiffenpoofs kind of started it all in terms of college a cappella singing. They’re over 100 years old, they perform in white tie and tails and their music is old and more classic than most college a cappella groups. They have a really unique style and a unique blend of music and humor in their performances.”

For over 20 years Israel has been an important stop on the Whiffenpoofs’ traditional world tour.

Hendler considers the world tour special because “in such a short period of time you get a really interesting cross-cultural perspective on the way that life and culture can be constructed across different countries of the world. Since you’re going from one country to another very quickly you have a comparative perspective between different places.”

The Whiffenpoofs, or the Whiffs as they have become known, have, over time, developed relationships with the communities they visit every year.

They create the deepest connections when they have the opportunity to stay with families in the community.

Hendler recalled one family in Japan that has hosted the Whiffenpoofs for decades.

“They knew all of the previous incarnations of the group and were telling stories about the older members. They had a whole perspective on the Whiffenpoof experience that many of us didn’t have.”

When the group first started coming to Israel they stayed in residents’ homes and have enjoyed a warm hospitality from the Israel audience. In return, the Whiffenpoofs try to give back to the community. Their concerts act as a fundraiser for the Jerusalem Rotary Club’s Rotary Community Projects. In the past the community projects have included providing special machines for children with cystic fibrosis, creating a recreation room for children battling cancer at a local hospital and funding nurse training at hospitals abroad.

For many of the Whiffs, the world tour is a life-changing event. What the Whiffenpoof members experience and the lessons they learn from seeing so many cultures often resonates with them for years to come.

After graduating Yale and spending his senior year with the Whiffenpoofs, Hendler decided to come to Israel and found the Jerusalem Youth Chorus at the YMCA. The concept of “crossing borders” through music that Micah learned from his a cappella experience inspired him to create this group.

“We are a chorus of Israeli and Palestinian high school students from over a dozen schools in east and west Jerusalem who come together for a unique combination of not only a musical program but also a dialogue program,” says Hendler. The Jerusalem Youth Chorus will be performing at the Whiffenpoof performances in Jerusalem.

Don Edelstein, another Yale graduate, who now lives in Israel, loves it when the Whiffs come to town. He told The Jerusalem Post that he was most looking forward to hearing the Whiffenpoofs sing their version of “Down by the Sally Gardens.”

Edelstein mentioned that he was familiar with the song before, but hearing the Whiffenpoofs’ rendition brought it to life for him. He now shares the Whiffenpoof music with his family and attends the performances in Israel.

The Whiffenpoofs will perform at 8 p.m. on June 18 at Beit Daniel in Tev Aviv and at the Jerusalem YMCA on June 19.

The cost per concert is NIS 85, with NIS 10 discounts for pensioners and those under 26.

Jerusalem Concert tickets can be purchased online at; Tel Aviv concert tickets are available for purchase at www.whiffADELE IS getting a new medal to go alongside her Grammys and Academy

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