While Israel may burn with strife, nonprofits still do good - opinion

At a time when there are those who are deeply disturbed by what is happening right now to our one Jewish state, it is crucial to remind ourselves of the good being done by nonprofits.

 CONCERT WITH a difference. (photo credit: ESRA Netanya)
CONCERT WITH a difference.
(photo credit: ESRA Netanya)

Shakespeare’s famous quotation “If music be the food of love, play on” referred to love between two people. However, there is a belief among many that in order to love another, we have to love ourselves first. 

Music can play an important role in our lives. Listening to a piece of exquisite music always transports me to a better place; it helps to alleviate the stress that is part of day-to-day living. My late husband, during the last few months of his life, liked nothing better than to sit back in his armchair and listen to the sound of beautiful music. There is something very calming in this pastime.

Music, among its manifold attributes, is recognized as a valuable therapeutic tool. It has enabled those with a low self-image to achieve the self-confidence that can be a life-changer. 

Recently, I went to a concert with a difference. The performers were aged between 13 and 18, comprising singers accompanied by other youngsters playing guitars, drums, and the keyboard, who also performed individually. As with any concert, there were some presentations I liked more than others. However, there was no doubt that each and every one was imbued with the confidence to step onto the stage and perform in front of a large audience.

Why “a concert with a difference”? The teenagers who performed are regular attendees of the Volume Music Center based in east Netanya’s Hephzibah district. Founded eight years ago, the center attracts participants from socially diverse neighborhoods. 

 Boulders are seen falling down the sea cliffs to the beach below in Netanya, Israel. (credit: SARAH HERSHENSON)
Boulders are seen falling down the sea cliffs to the beach below in Netanya, Israel. (credit: SARAH HERSHENSON)

A successful project by an Israeli nonprofits

In order to find out more about this successful project, the Magazine sat down with Nina Zuck, project chair of ESRA Netanya; Eliran Moyal, head of the Kiryat Hasharon Community Center; and Esther Matuko, the project’s youth coordinator. Each has contributed greatly to the success of Volume.

Zuck explained “The kids who are at the Volume Music Center live in Netanya, many from weaker neighborhoods, many from difficult home environments, and some from better localities and good homes. What brings them together is the music – no differences between rich and poor, brown or white.”

THE YOUNGSTERS attend the center three times a week, where they have the opportunity to learn how to play a musical instrument, receive singing lessons, and achieve an overall insight into music appreciation. Over and above this reality is the receipt of a valuable gift – the strengthening of belief in oneself, which is of particular relevance to those whose background has posed varied challenges. 

Matuko shared the history of one girl, Anat (as we shall call her), a 14-year-old whom Matuko first met as the youth coordinator at the school Anat attended. Clearly in need of help, Anat had developed a drinking problem. Her parents were divorced, and financial problems plus numerous other challenges pervaded her home life, leading to a stressful relationship with her mother. 

During the course of their conversations, Matuko discovered that Anat loved music. Following further meetings, Anat was persuaded to go to the Music Center. Aside from the music, Anat found that being able to share her problems with other members of the group – some of whom had similar challenges – was exceedingly supportive. Today, Anat enjoys singing and accompanying herself on the keyboard, as well as performing her newfound talents for a live audience. 

One of the performers at the concert was a young lad with all the attributes of a future star; full of self-confidence and talent – reaching out to his receptive audience as he sang and played his guitar. It was surprising to learn that initially he was extremely withdrawn, with a tendency to virtually cover his face with his cap. Yet here he was, without doubt, a star of the show. 

A group of 12-year-old Israeli youngsters with Ethiopian backgrounds, who lived in Hephzibah itself, were hesitant at first to join the Music Center because of their shyness and lack of self-confidence. They managed to overcome this and currently participate in a special weekly class, where they have found the confidence to enable them to graduate to the regular music classes in the coming year. This group performed the final act of the concert, which was met with loud applause.

WHILE CHATTING in Moyal’s office, in walked Boaz (as we shall call him), who had a question for Moyal. We later learned that Boaz comes from a large family in which his father had died, leaving his mother to care for nine children. Music and the center gave him not only the ability to play the drums – which he still enjoys today – but also the confidence to enlist as a combat soldier in the IDF. 

Having recently finished his army service, what was he doing on that morning? He was a madrich (leader) at the local summer camp – perhaps a way of giving back all he had gained at Volume.

Back to the beginning. As someone who spent 30 years working professionally as a relationship counselor, I discovered that one of the most common factors that is prevalent among those who find it difficult to form and maintain relationships is the childhood experiences that affected their self-image. Sadly, for many, it had taken many years before they recognized the need to seek help. 

Conversely, as part of the audience at the Volume Music Center’s concert, it was exciting to witness the positive therapeutic results of music on a group of teenagers whose self-confidence has evolved because of music. 

At a time when there are those, like myself, who are deeply disturbed by what is happening right now to our one Jewish state, it is crucial to remind ourselves of the good that is being carried out by nonprofit organizations, such as ESRA Netanya – the primary supporters of the Volume Music Center. 

Our deep appreciation goes to the manifold volunteers and professionals in numerous nonprofit organizations throughout the country not only for the support they readily give to others but for helping us to remember all that remains exceedingly positive in our beloved Israel. Am Yisrael chai. 

The writer is chairwoman of Israel, Britain, and the Commonwealth Association.