The Orthodox Union’s Israel arm celebrated its 40th anniversary in a gala concert in Live Park featuring international entertainer Yaakov Shwekey. Drawing more than 5,000 Israelis and visitors, the program featured odes to The Special Children’s Center, three boys murdered by terrorists in 2014 in Gush Etzion and the Pearl & Harold Jacobs Zula Outreach Center.
Shwekey released a new song dedicated to the three boys called “The Way We Were,” which he sang with the Makor Chaim Choir. One of the boys, Naftali Frenkel, had been a member of the troupe before his death. The singer also performed a very moving tribute to children with special needs when he sang “I Am Alive” with 12 participants and counsellors from The Special Needs Center.
The concert also featured guest musical appearances from famous Israeli musicians Shlomi Shabat, Yishai Ribo and Yonatan Razel. It was produced by Sharon Daniel Pro.
Another key part of the evening was an emotional video of Shwekey touring the OU’s Pearl & Harold Jacobs Zula Outreach Center where he interacted with program participants.
“The future of our children is up to us – their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends. We need to learn not to judge based on external looks, but by their hearts,” said OU Israel Executive Director Rabbi Avi Berman in his remarks following the showing of the video. “We could have celebrated our 40th anniversary in many different ways, but chose to pay tribute to those we assist every day. Yaakov Shwekey was a great partner for us in this endeavor. He spent hours at the Zula center – until 3:30 one morning, talking and singing with our participants. His love of the Jewish people is an example of what we all need to espouse.