Essex County News

Golda Och Academy Hosts Eighth Annual Jewish Choir Festival Weekend

The 8th Annual Kolot HaYam Choir Festival brought Jewish day school students together for a special weekend of skill-building workshops and musical competition.

LONG BRANCH, NJ — The eighth annual Kolot HaYam Jewish Choral Festival, hosted by Golda Och Academy, was recently held at the Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch.

The festival featured a special weekend of musical competition, skill-building workshops and pluralistic celebration of Shabbat, enabling participating schools to compete in a traditional choral competition while still being able to observe Shabbat and kosher dietary laws.

This year, Golda Och Academy was joined by the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (Rockville, MD), Abraham Joshua Heschel School (New York) and the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester (New York).  Approximately 100 students and faculty attended Kolot Hayam, led by festival director Jamie Mittleman.

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The event also featured cutting-edge vocal workshops led by leading singer-songwriters and recording artists, Shabbat services and meals, as well as a choral competition judged by award-winning a capella group Six13 members Mordy Weinstein and Jacob Kraus and singer/voice teacher Lisa Kasdan.

“Kolot HaYam is a truly unique experience for Jewish day school students,” said Jordan Herskowitz, Golda Och Academy’s Director of Student Life & Arts Department Chair. “Their love for Jewish music comes alive as they sing and bond together, and this year’s expansion of musical educators added a new layer of excitement and enrichment to the weekend.” 

Throughout the weekend, participants had the opportunity to improve their skills on songwriting, improvisational harmonies, beatboxing and performance techniques. YouTube sensation Natalie Weiss (part of the ensemble on the Original Broadway Cast recording of Dear Evan Hansen) led a workshop based on her popular web series Breaking Down the Riff, teaching students about music theory and riffing and scaling basics.

“Our goal was to make every element of the festival well-organized, creative and intentional, and I couldn't have imagined a more beautiful weekend,” said Festival Director Jamie Mittleman. “From gaining valuable lessons and tools from the various musical educators to participating in the final competition, the students had a great time bonding and singing together. Kolot Hayam 2017 was truly a success, and we can’t wait to continue to expand its impact.” 

The Kolot HaYam Jewish Choral Festival was made possible by a generous grant from the Arie and Eva Halpern z”l Fund for Jewish Heritage, which enriches students’ Judaic studies at Golda Och Academy through enhanced opportunities in Judaic arts, music and experiential education. For more information on the festival, visit


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