Nysha Recent News

Mainstreaming Center Stage Again at Hamaspik’s Grand Community Concert

November 14, 2016

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Families Thrill to Love Ones Dancing, Singing to (and with) Popular Performers

There’s no better way to put something center stage then, well, to put it center stage. 

And if contemporary progress means embracing and mainstreaming as people, people who also happen to have disabilities, then Hamaspik again put that progress at center stage, and literally.

On Wednesday, October 19, close to 2,000 individuals with special needs and/or their family members and support staff converged on Lehman College for yet another spectacular Hamaspik holiday concert.

The exciting event, the community outing hosted by the non-profit agency at each Sukkos and Pesach holiday, once again brought together hundreds of people with special needs of all ages—joined once again by hundreds of devoted and hardworking fathers, mothers and siblings, too.

Throughout the spectacular three-hour live event, children and young adults with special needs repeatedly took the stage to dance, sing and even perform along with vocalists and entertainers.  (As they did, parents could be seen joyously snapping away on personal cameras.)

For the young folks, it was simply a fun activity.  But for the community, and for society, it was another powerful, positive and telling indicator of what today takes center stage.

Setting the stage

The event began promptly at 2:00 p.m. with Master of Ceremonies Yechiel “Chilu” Posen, also choirmaster of the Hamezamrim men’s vocal chorale, formally welcoming the capacity crowd.

With the dozens of cars, vans and charter buses outside having brought in the 1,000-plus guests inside, the singer artfully interacted with his audience to heighten the atmosphere of excitement—including filling the air with several energetic holiday-themed selections.

For the next hour, the eight-man orchestra and five-voice choir backed such popular community vocalists as Shea Berko, Boruch Sholom Blesofsky, Levi Falkowitz and Yoely Greenfeld as each belted out their most popular songs.

Each demonstrated the height of sensitivity and accommodation as various young guests joined them in the limelight, or on the mike, to express exhilaration in dance or song—with most taking a singer’s hand, or throwing a bonding arm over a shoulder, to skip to and fro to the music.

Serving as an intermission of sorts was beloved children’s entertainer Cousin Nachum, whose foppish stage persona had children of all ages laughing from the very first drop of his hat—which, along with bowls and plates that he “accidentally” let fall to the floor, opened his humorous and captivating family act.

Much of Cousin Nachum’s balancing and juggling feats admiringly and seamlessly incorporated an adorable little girl who volunteered her participation without solicitation.  “That’s okay, sir!” he affably quipped to a caregiver calling her to step back from the stage on which she had innocently planted herself.  “I can improvise!”  And improvise he did, making her part of the show as if it was totally planned.  Needless to say, the children’s parents weren’t the only ones appreciative of the sensitivity.

The Yiddishe Nachas boys choir, arguably the first Chasidic youth singing group whose songs are geared for the entire Orthodox Jewish spectrum, next took the stage to strong applause.

Under choirmaster Moshe Kraus, the group of 14 young vocalists rolled out one popular hit after another.  The dozen-plus boys, smartly decked out in matching turquoise vests and pastel slacks, had the crowd clapping and singing along, and robustly applauding each upbeat selection.

With much fanfare, Chilu Posen then introduced cross-generational children’s performer Moshe Tannebaum, a.k.a. Uncle Moishy, whose simple but memorable melodies have for decades been setting Jewish community values and practices to music.

Uncle Moishy spent an exciting 30 minutes on stage regaling the family-heavy audience with his lesson-laden lyrics on everything from regularly studying the Torah to the mitzvah of returning lost items to owners (with the help of his “lost pet fish” drifting about the stage).

The next stage

The event’s grand finale slowly built to a crescendo, with Yiddishe Nachas first returning to the stage for an encore round comprised of their greatest hits thus far.

The excitement rising with each song only reached additional heights with the return appearance of singers Berko, Blesofsky, Falkowitz and Greenfeld.  Backed by the vocal power of the boys’ and men’s choirs and the band at full tilt, the gentlemen soon found themselves joined by more than a few young men hopping about the stage with them, arm in arm in musical ecstasy.

At the same time, with atmosphere practically crackling with joy, the front left seating area spontaneously combusted into an impromptu dance floor.  Much of that “fire” was ignited by the volunteers of the Special Children’s Center and their appropriately yellow t-shirts.

Under the direction of Boys Division Director Mrs. Miriam Kaplovitz, a sizable contingent of youths with special needs, and their caring volunteer caregivers (including Mr. Yossi Kaplovitz), from the Lakewood, New Jersey-based non-profit was again in attendance at Hamaspik’s annual concert event.

For the past several years, the Center has happily accepted repeat invitations from Hamaspik’s very own Mrs. Brenda Katina, the agency’s Special Events Coordinator.

Now, with the stage manic with music and song, the corner of the concert hall was transformed into a throbbing mass of boys and men dancing with abandon, arms swinging and feet flying—with the fact not even registering that those with and without disabilities were evenly mixed.

And is not that the ultimate idea?