On the eve of Hoshana Rabba, at the iconic David Citadel in Jerusalem, Friendship Circle pulled off its 3rd annual 'Rockin' Friendship' concert, celebrating children with unique challenges, despite the unprecedented odds. Singimg stars Ohad Moshkovitz and Yonatan Raz'el took to the stage, accompanied by young singers Yossi Hershtik and (emerging talents from the Israel Music School) Chaim Zippel and Itay Tourgeman. FC representatives, 21-year-old Or Chaim Osher and Tutti Sasson, 16, played emotional, integral roles during the evening. Close to 10,000 viewers, including children with special needs and their families tuned in from around the world.
One of 79 friendship circles worldwide, F.C Jerusalem provides a range of social opportunities for people with special needs throughout the year. On Sukkot, the organization hosts an annual gala concert that the children and their families attend as VIP guests. However, this year, amid the throes of a second wave of Covid-19 in Israel, an 'in person' event was deemed impossible.
FC Jerusalem turned challenge into opportunity and went 'international', broadcasting a live concert into the homes of special-needs youth worldwide.
Setting the tone for the event, Singer Ohad Moshkovitz roused the crowd with his boundless energy and magnificent voice. "Ohad gave it his all and then gave it some more, performing beyond expectations", said the organizers.
As Or Chaim Osher, a F.C participant from Jerusalem (who is blind from birth, and is a graduate of the Keren Or school) was invited on stage to sing a duet of “Shabechi Yerushalayim” with Raz’el, an impromptu exchange ensued between the two.
When Raz'el learned the boy was a Cohen, he invited him to bless the virtual crowds of close to 10,000 viewers worldwide. In a surprise turn of events, Or Chaim, 21, blind from birth, captured his moment by asking Raz'el to take him out on a 'buddy date' after lockdown.
Without missing a beat Ra’zel responded, “Sure, coffee’s on me. Cafe hafuch? Do you take sugar? Whipped cream?” Or Chaim nodded to all 3.Coffee date details sorted, they performed one of the evening's most memorable duets. Razel then danced him all the way back to his seat. The boy's mother commented in a tearful response,
"Tonight, my child experienced 3 historic firsts. 1. An offer for coffee with a buddy. 2. A duet with a famed singer who made him feel like a star 3. Someone deemed him worthy of being able to dance - on stage. These gifts which he viewed with his inner eyes, he will never forget."
The effervescent Tutti Sasson, a gifted emcee with Downs Syndrome, invited all viewers to recite Amen as she gave the crowd blessing after heartfelt blessing.
Hundreds of families sent clips of their elated children dancing and singing in front of computers and projectors. One parent wrote, “When I saw those singers singing - their hearts on their sleeves with such unbridled joy, I felt—if anything is going to break through heaven to bring down healing for this virus, it's this. The love and care truly shone on this night...”
Chanie Canterman, FC Jerusalem Director and co-shlucha to Chabad of Talbieh-Mamilla, was moved by the care and sensitivity the performers showed the youth with special needs at the concert,
“Beyond the singing that night, The warm and genuine interaction with Or Chaim sent a strong voice of hope to the countless individuals with and without special needs who were watching the event:
Children and youth with disabilities are equal among equals, an integral part of society, who deserve friendship, respect and inclusion. Given those opportunities, they are capable of responding with tremendous love, warmth and incredible talent.”
The evening was produced by Tzvaim productions.