A COVID-Inspired Jewish Musical Collaboration

West End Synagogue (NYC) and Mosaic Law Congregation (Sacramento, CA) Virtual Choirs performing Achat Sha'alti (From Psalm 27) written and accompanied by David Alon Friedman and conducted by Brian Kreiswirth

Since most synagogue campuses have been closed due to the pandemic, Cantor Ben Rosner of Sacramento’s Mosaic Law Congregation, has been thinking outside the box to create meaningful High Holyday musical experiences for his community.  He envisioned a collaboration of two choirs, performing David Alon Friedman‘s moving composition of “Achat Sha’alti,” a verse from Psalm 27 which expresses our yearning for spiritual connection—a connection to God and to our inner souls.

He would connect his synagogue choir in Sacramento with the choir from West End Synagogue in New York City.  The Cantor of West End Synagogue, Melissa Berman, was a classmate of Rosner’s in Cantorial School at the Jewish Theological Seminary.  And the connection goes further, as Friedman just happens to be a member of Berman’s congregation.

Google Maps & Google Earth

Once it was agreed to have the two choirs sing together virtually, Rosner had to figure out how to produce a musical video recording, recognizing that members of both choirs would have to record their particular choral part from their individual homes.  During a recent webinar conducted by the Cantors Assembly, Rosner found David and Judy Gershon.  David is an award-winning musician, composer and video producer and his wife Judy is the Founder, Conductor and Artistic Director of the Toronto Jewish Chorus and Cantorial Soloist of Temple Emanu-El.  The call from Rosner could not have come at a better time as Gershon’s non-profit organization, Education Arts Canada (EAC) has been almost entirely shut down because of COVID. So Gershon, along with Judy and their son Jared, decided to combine their talents to create  They offer choirs and bands the opportunity to create beautiful, well-produced videos in this age of physical distancing. The Gershon family has been working around the clock, helping more than 20 congregations from all over North America with video productions, since many synagogues will be providing virtual High Holyday services.

“…During this time of COVID, when so many of the familiar rituals that we would normally find comfort in during the High Holy Days are out of our reach (singing together, praying together, sharing meals together), we have found a way to create a connection between two congregations at opposite ends of a continent, to sing together the words of Psalm 27, which so beautifully express the human yearning for comfort amidst turmoil, for connection to that which is holy, indeed to literally bring ourselves into harmony with something greater than ourselves…”     David Alon Friedman

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of us in profound ways. It has certainly altered our social interactions and has given new meaning to the word “adaptation.” While none of us knows how long it will be when we can physically gather together, Cantors Rosner and Berman, David Alon Friedman, David and Judy Gershon and all 38 members of the bi-coastal MLC and WES choirs, have inspired us with their innovation—one which allows for Jewish music collaboration across a continent to be performed, linking members of two synagogues, thousands of miles apart, in extraordinary ways.

And now, click on the video of this remarkable collaboration and be inspired!

Achat Sha'alti (Psalm 27) written by David Friedman with West End Synagogue (NYC) and Mosaic Law Congregation (Sacramento, CA) Virtual Choirs. Thank you to Judy and David Gershon at

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Ben Rosner‎‏ ב- יום שלישי, 25 באוגוסט 2020


About the Author
Reuven Taff has dedicated his career to serving Jewish communities. For 25 years, he was the rabbi and spiritual leader of Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento, California, and now serves as Rabbi Emeritus. As a Hazzan and Jewish Educator, he has held positions as Cantor and Educational Director at Beth El Congregation in Phoenix, Arizona, and Headmaster of Gesher Jewish Day School of Northern Virginia. In addition to his blog on Times of Israel, his opinion pieces have been published in The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento News and Review, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, The Albany Times-Union, The Algemeiner, The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Forward, Jewish Journal and other publications. He can be contacted at
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