Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Friendly Competition

On Thursday January 8th, the Y had our first inter-agency SONYC basketball game between our Y Teen Program basketball team and Harbor Heights Middle School basketball team.  This was designed to bring both teams together in friendly competition.
The Harbor Heights Middle School team is part of the DYCD Nike League. The students were required to try out in order to be on the team, and will train to play against other DYCD Nike League teams across the city starting March 1st. On the other hand, the Y Teen basketball team is strictly recreational, made up of local teens that come every week to develop their skills under the guidance of Y staff and coaches.
 The most important thing that impressed me was the respect and the sportsmanship before and after the game. It was a close game, but at the end our Y Teen team won the game by three points.
This was a good experience for our Y teens that have not had the opportunity to play against any other team beside ourselves, especially a competitive team. We hope to continue hosting opportunities of this kind to help our youth increase their self-esteem and to elevate the spirit of the game.

-Abraham Palma, Y Teen Program Director

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hidden Talents

It's not often that an organization can boast having an international Jewish singing star in their midst, but having 2 is unheard of!

Both Ari Lewis (Marketing Director) and Mordy Prus (social work intern) are current members of the Jewish A Cappella group The Maccabeats. Ari works full time at the Y, and Mordy splits his time between the Y and rabbinical school at Yeshiva University. Mordy works in the Y Nursery classrooms to help children with special needs to be part of the inclusive program. He also works with a Holocaust survivor providing support and care at the Y. Both Ari and Mordy work as much as they can as Maccabeats on nights and weekends due to their full-time work and school obligations.

A Capella, Latin for "the choir", is a form of music without instruments. This type of music lends itself to more creativity and expression through the human voice. Music without instruments has been a part of Jewish culture for centuries. For example, many synagogues use a "chazan" to lead services with beautiful tunes and melodies. Some synagogues today even use full choirs, a custom which started as early as the 16th century. A full choir at services dates back to the time of the Jewish holy temple. 

Ari and Mordy are both part of the original Maccabeats group founded in 2008 at Yeshiva University. A Cappella has been a staple of collegiate life for almost 100 years, with groups of boys and girls singing for their fellow students in archways and theaters all over campus. Groups of Jewish students jumped on the bandwagon and started forming groups of their own, which led to the creation of the Maccabeats.

The Maccabeats are unique as they are an all-male group. This is due to the religious restriction of Jewish males not being able to sing alongside females. It forces the group to get creative in producing a well-rounded sound. 

In 2010, The Maccabeats released a Chanukah video titled "Candlelight", a parody of the pop-hit "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz. After receiving a million views in the first few days, the video quickly received national attention with radio play and TV interviews. This year, the video has just passed 10 million views. 

Since then, Ari and Mordy have been touring the country and the world with the group. The group has been to 39 states, and countries including England, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Canada, and more. Ari and Mordy both agree that juggling family, work, and Maccabeats can be tough at times, but agree that their love for music and support from their family make it all worth it. 

Ari (bottom center) and Mordy (top right) perform in the Maccabeats video "Miracle"