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Concert to Benefit Federation's Mitzvah Food Project

July 9, 2009 By:
Amy Purdy, Jewish Federation Feature
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On July 19, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy alumni will host "Harmonies for Hunger Relief," a benefit concert for Federation's Mitzvah Food Project. Eleven Barrack students and alumni will perform an array of popular tunes, including classic and modern Broadway, Disney, R&B, pop and jazz, as well as original compositions. A dessert reception will follow the concert, to take place at the school on 272 S. Bryn Mawr Ave. in Bryn Mawr.

Proceeds from the concert will go to purchase food for the Mitzvah Project, a program that provides supplemental food packages to 2,000 households a year in the Greater Philadelphia area. The project operates five volunteer-run food pantries throughout the region.

"The concert comes at an important time for the Mitzvah Food Project," says Ira Schwartz, Federation CEO. "Federation is committed to meeting the increased need for food brought on by the current recession."

He adds, "We are thrilled that a group of Barrack alumni are calling attention to the work of the Mitzvah Food Project and raising vital funds."

Concert organizers Deena and Sara Goldstein were inspired to create the benefit concert by the community-service projects they performed while students at Barrack, formerly known as Akiba Hebrew Academy.

Now in college, Deena, a 2006 alumna says, "I thought it would be a great mitzvah for many people to work together to help raise funds for, and awareness of, hunger and food insecurity in our area."

Deena, a senior at Binghamton University, plans to earn a master's degree in social work to prepare for a career alleviating homeless and poverty.

Sara, a 2008 Barrack graduate, expresses the organizers' desire to give back to their community. She notes that "while we all continued from Barrack to our separate paths, it's important to remember and support where we come from."

Sara, currently a sophomore at Drexel University who is studying communications and public relations, will perform "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" by Jason Robert Brown, from his musical "Songs for a New World." She will also perform in several duets and trios during the concert.

According to Lee Hillerson, who is serving her third year as chair of the Mitzvah Food Project advisory board, the benefit concert is an opportunity to bring attention to the extent of food insecurity in the Jewish community.

"The next generation realizes the severity of food insecurity, and they are helping to get the word out to a whole new audience, in a new way," notes Hillerson.

This event marks the first time the Mitzvah Food Project has had a benefit.

"We look forward to more benefit events in support of the project," says Hillerson.

Michael Bihovsky, a 2005 alumnus, plans to perform selections from the musical "Rent," in part, because he says it's a show "that is a strong advocate for social change."

He will also perform an original composition from "The New Musical," a rock musical he's written. Bihovsky, who graduated from New York University with a concentration in musical-theater performance and composition, is set to begin recording his musical in August.

For Dana Gitlin, a 2007 Barrack graduate, "a concert is a great way for young people to get involved and make a difference." Her performance will include "Somewhere" from Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "West Side Story" and "My Immortal" by Evanescense. Gitlin is a music major at New York University.

Event sponsors include Barrack Hebrew Academy, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and Max & David's International Kosher Cuisine.

"Each of us can make a positive impact on our community," insists Deena Goldstein. "Since all proceeds from 'Harmonies for Hunger Relief' go directly to purchase food, all concert-goers will directly support hunger relief in our area, plus they'll see talented performers in an exciting summer evening of music."

For more information, including a list of performers, and to purchase tickets, see: www.jewishphilly.org/mfp.

For sponsorship information, call Deidre Mulligan at 215-832-0509; e-mail [email protected]; or visit: www.jewishphilly.org/mfp.

Recordings by Michael Bihovsky and Dana Gitlin can be found on: www.michaelbihovsky.com and youtube.com.

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