Creating Community through Song

by Michele Weingarden
2011-12 Roots & Branches Foundation member

Heading out to a site visit with the Colorado Hebrew Chorale, the Holocaust was the furthest thing from my mind. I imagined they’d tell us stories of joyous concerts and festive holiday celebrations. Instead, this local music ensemble stunned me with their story about why they attempt to build community through music. On the day the gates of the concentration camps flew open, they said, the first thing survivors did while walking to freedom was sing the Hatikvah, a Zionist song from the late 19th century that would one day become Israel’s national anthem.

Recalling this image sends shivers down my spine now, as it did during our discussion. What a powerful message about the depth and meaning song has to Jewish identity and culture. This meeting proved to be an inspiring introduction to the organizations that shape the diverse nonprofits in our Jewish community doing meaningful and heartfelt work. My grantmaking experience with Roots & Branches opened my eyes to the generous work underway in our Jewish community, and I am not sure this exposure could have been obtained any other way.

One of the missions we chose to support this year was Jewish cultural programming for school-aged children. While we documented several wonderful Jewish play-based opportunities for children during the preschool play years, we identified a gap in non- religious programming outside the classroom for children between the ages of 5-13 to participate in with their parents. We sought to give Jewish families the opportunity to enjoy Jewish programming together.

The Colorado Hebrew Chorale is one of several proposals that fit this grant priority, touched our hearts, and had a unique focus on music. The volunteer ensemble partners with Four Mile Historic Park to bring families outdoors during each season throughout the year to share Jewish music, art projects, and traditional Jewish food. This concept fit our criteria for programming that reaches beyond the central connected Jewish community and appeals to families regardless of their level of religious observance or affiliation. It also fit our desire to support programs that celebrate Jewish heritage through an inspirational, hands-on, community-building lens. We are excited about supporting this small, spirited group to grow its programming and take their organization to the next level of development. Our group felt like we could really make an impact on the Colorado Hebrew Chorale’s future. With this funding, the Chorale will launch a membership recruitment program, which will give it the ability to provide consistent programming for families for many years to come.

Our desire is to see new engaged faces, impactful community gatherings, and lots and lots of singing to continue to celebrate the joy and soul of our Jewish heritage and future.

Rose Community Foundation is currently accepting applications from young Jewish adults between the ages of 25 and 40, living in Greater Denver and Boulder, who want to be part of this collaborative grantmaking program in 2012-13. Visit to learn more and apply. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, May 30, 2012, however applicants are encouraged to express their intent to apply by Wednesday, May 16th.