About the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus
The YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus is a choral and dialogue program for Israeli and Palestinian high school students in Jerusalem. Our mission is to provide a space for these young people from East and West Jerusalem to grow together in song and dialogue. Through the co-creation of music and the sharing of stories, the chorus seeks to empower youth in Jerusalem to become leaders in their communities and inspire singers and listeners around the world to work for peace.
The YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus is an official program of the Jerusalem International YMCA and the Jerusalem Foundation. The Jerusalem Foundation, an independent community foundation dedicated to preserving an open, equitable and modern society in Jerusalem, supports the program at the YMCA, one of the few places in a city divided along religious, cultural, political and linguistic lines that people of all walks of life can and do feel comfortable. We are further blessed by the support of individuals and organizations around the world, from New Haven to Tokyo and beyond, who believe in the power of song to cross borders and have helped us spread our message internationally.
The YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus is unique in its combination of music and dialogue programming, providing a transformative experience for our singers that yields both friendship and understanding on an individual and collective level across lines of religion, nationality, language, and culture. We go beyond simply singing together, delving deeper into one another’s identities, life experiences, communal narratives, religious traditions, and national histories through dialogue, all within the safe space of the musical ensemble and the strong personal bonds and community it creates.
Musically, the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus seeks to reflect the values of equality and inclusiveness upon which we are based, truly making manifest the concept of beauty in diversity. As our members come often from vastly different musical traditions, we draw heavy influences from both East and West in our repertoire and musical style. As such, we seek to innovate and challenge boundaries musically as we do in the non-musical elements of our program. To hear our unique sound for yourself, visit our music page.
The community built by the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus is strong and full of love. We meet even through wars and cycles of violence because in some ways, the chorus is actually the place our singers feel safest being themselves, no matter what is going on outside. Our singers take the lessons they learn in JYC and share them widely, with friends, family, and classmates, inviting peers to see our rehearsals, parents to see our concerts, and sometimes even publicly challenging figures of authority to see things from a different perspective.
As a performing ensemble, we seek to amplify our impact even further through local and international performances and media coverage.
The YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus has been featured on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, as well as in the New York Times, on the BBC and on PBS, in Haaretz, Alhurra and many other news sources. We have recorded with multi-platinum Israeli artist and peace activist David Broza in Jerusalem and in London with Duran Duran. Our recent music video, Home, with YouTube superstar Sam Tsui, has amassed over 375,000 views. We have toured to Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States and have performed at venues as celebrated as the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and as a featured ensemble at the Yale International Choral Festival.
And most importantly, we perform regularly in Jerusalem, joining forces with other organizations working for peace, justice, and equality, and also reaching out to those who have never even considered that something like what we do could even be possible, let alone beautiful.
Founder and Co-Director
Micah Hendler, Founder and Co-Director of the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus, is from Bethesda, Maryland and graduated from Yale in 2012 with a degree in music and international studies.
A singer with the Whiffenpoofs and Duke’s Men during his time at Yale, he has founded, directed, sung with, or played with dozens of musical ensembles of varying global styles. A CARA-nominated vocal arranger, he always seeks to hear music from new perspectives, and strives to make his accessible and yet challenging. A "Morning Sing" Presenter at Chorus America in 2015, he has studied Community Singing with Ysaye Barnwell and CircleSinging with Roger Treece, and uses these two methodologies and others to open up the concept of what a chorus can do and who should be in it.
He has spent more than a dozen years exploring the intersection between music and conflict transformation, a journey that started at Seeds of Peace International Camp for Coexistence in Maine in 2004. Specifically, he has focused on how collective music-making can create community and foster shared identity, even across boundaries of conflict. His paper on the subject, “I am a Seed of Peace: Music and Israeli-Arab Peacemaking,” was presented at several conferences and published in 2012. His senior thesis, "Music for Peace in Jerusalem," explored how these processes could be applied on the ground in Jerusalem in a lasting way, and formed the basis of the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus model. He had the recent honor to share the keynote presentation of the East-West Philosophers’ Conference, "Sound and Self: A Space to Call Home" with Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, prominent Palestinian intellectual and peacemaker, as they explored together how sound can be used as a tool to create shared spaces in Jerusalem. In 2017, he has presented at the Nexus USA Summit, Nexus Global Summit, and the Forbes Under30 Summit EMEA on the chorus’s work.
Micah was selected as one of the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Music, he was a 2016 Seeds of Peace GATHER Fellow, and served as the 2015-2017 President of the AMENDS Global Fellows, a network of emerging changemakers in the MENA region.
He has never been more in love with any ensemble than he is with the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus, and is grateful to them for their dedication to the chorus and for their love of one another.
Co-Director and Chorus Manager
Nizar Elkhater was born in the City of Lod, Israel in 1985. In the age of five he started to learn the piano and composition and improvisation at the Striker Conservatory in Tel Aviv, under Prof. Malka Mevorach and Prof. Ronen Shapira. In 2002 Nizar was Awarded the First Prize Scholarship for excellence in performance at the Striker Conservatory of music and composed his piece "Concerto for piano and orchestra", which was performed together with the Youth Conservatory Orchestra of Tel Aviv in many festivals in Israel.
Nizar continued his Piano education at the Jerusalem Academy of Music with Prof. Zkharia Plavin where he won the First prize at the "Rome For Jerusalem" piano competition. Nizar received many Awards, the Special Music Award, for performing "Gaspard de la nuit" by Ravel, at the “Tel Hai” International Master Class, The "Excellent Musician Award", of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and the first prize for the "Best Schubert performance" Playing the op.42 Sonata in a piano master classes competition in Vienna under the guidance of Prof. Wolfgang Watzinger. Nizar started his 3rd degree in doctorate study at Bar Ilan University.
Nizar has performed over the years in important and exclusive concert venues and festivals in Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain, France, Croatia, Cyprus and Lithuania. He has built an ensemble, ABAAD, that combines eastern and western instruments together, for which he writes arrangements and new compositions. Nizar conducts and plays with the ensemble alongside many other chamber ensembles and orchestras, including the Raanana and Ramat Gan Symphony Orchestras. He wrote arrangements and compositions for the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Jerusalem East-West Orchestra, Tarshiha Arabic Orchestra, Bertini Choir, and many chamber other ensembles, and conducted the "Les Mamelles de Tirésias" Opera by Faure.
Nizar is deeply involved in organizing important projects of youth musical education and special classical music projects, conducting and writing for youth orchestras. He currently has three projects with children in Lod, supported by the Harmonika Association. Three years ago, he built an oud, violin, and percussion orchestra at the “Chicago” community center in Lod, for which he wrote the method for eastern instruments, both for studying lessons and the orchestral music. Last year, he took the same concept to two schools, building orchestras there - one with 30 children, and the other 60. Finally, this year, Nizar began working with a special choir which combines people with Physical limitations and people with special needs, in addition to his work co-directing the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus.