Grapevine: Ode to Joya

Fifteen male and female singers in the 20-something age group have banded together to add yet another choir to Jerusalem’s impressive output.

Joya choir 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Joya choir 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
■ MALES AND females singing in a mixed choir is usually a no-no in Orthodox Jewish circles, but there are some – at least those in the modern Orthodox stream – who figure that as long as it’s outside the synagogue, it’s permissible.
Fifteen male and female singers in the 20-something age group have banded together to add yet another choir to Jerusalem’s impressive output.
Known as Joya, they sing everything from Bach to Beatles, as well as traditional Jewish songs and contemporary Israeli pop music. Formed less than a year ago, Joya has already achieved considerable repute and has appeared at several major events, with more lined up for the near future, including the Jerusalem Performing Arts Festival at the end of March. Joya’s musical director and arranger for much of its repertoire is Richard Shavei Zion, who is also director of the 40-member Ramatayim Men’s Choir. Aside from his faith in the group of young singers, he also has an ulterior motive in directing it. Two of his daughters, Rina and Tanya, are Joya singers.
■ YAD VASHEM Chairman Avner Shalev is adding to his store of trophies.
Shalev is among 12 veteran Jerusalemites to be honored with the title Worthy of Jerusalem on June 1, which is Jerusalem Day. Born in Jerusalem, Shalev served as bureau chief for IDF Chief-of-General Staff David (Dado) Elazar during the Yom Kippur War, and was subsequently chief education officer and head of the Education Corps.
Following his retirement from military service, Shalev served as director-general of the Culture Authority in the Education and Culture Ministry, and chairman of the National Culture and Art Council, in which capacity he also served on the board of directors of the Israel Museum. It was at Shalev’s initiative that the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School was established. Shalev was also instrumental in positioning the Israel Festival as a Jerusalem event. Shalev, who has served as Yad Vashem chairman since 1993, has endeavored to redefine Holocaust remembrance and education to extend beyond the Jewish world, and has introduced a far-reaching multiyear redevelopment plan aimed at preparing Yad Vashem to meet the challenges of Holocaust commemoration in the 21st century.
Shalev is chief curator of the Holocaust History Museum that opened in 2005. In 2003, Yad Vashem, under Shalev’s chairmanship, was awarded the Israel Prize, and in 2007 Shalev received the Legion of Honor from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. In that same year, Shalev also received, on Yad Vashem’s behalf, the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord from Spanish Crown Prince Felipe.
■ THERE HAS been a sudden upsurge in the realization that people with disabilities should not be marginalized but should be given every opportunity to explore their potential and utilize their talents. Basically what it means is that such people have more daily difficulties to confront and overcome, and many of them have done so.
One of the ways of increasing public awareness of disability in its many aspects, along with the determination of many disabled people to live life to the full, is the Reframing Reality Film Festival which opens at the Jerusalem Cinematheque next week. Among the organizations that work to integrate people with special needs into all areas of Israeli life is Shekel, which is engaged in a cooperative effort with the Jerusalem Cinematheque, which actively promotes openness, tolerance and acceptance of the other. As part of the festival, Shekel, together with the Cinematheque and members of the family of the late Gideon Drori, will host a memorial evening on March 16 to mark the sixth anniversary of his passing. Drori was a senior producer, director and editor at Israel Television and responsible for many fine documentaries. He was also a chairman of the Jerusalem Journalists Association, in addition to which he was a prominent figure in the battle for rights for people with disabilities. Several short films made by people with disabilities and special needs will be screened, and prizes distributed.