On Dec. 23, hundreds attended Atlantic Seaboard NCSY’s annual benefit concert at Baltimore’s Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The 44th Annual Isaac H. Taylor Jewish Music Festival drew a crowd from across Baltimore and the Greater Washington area and featured musical performances by popular Jewish artists Uri Davidi, Simcha Leiner, and 8th Day band.
In years past, the event also included an awards ceremony honoring individuals for their ongoing contributions to and support of NCSY and the Baltimore Jewish community. This year, however, the event remained focused on the music, presenting three acts for an exciting show that ranged from upbeat rock to slow ballads that brought out a sea of cellphone flashlights in the crowd. All three musical guests were accompanied by Baltimore’s own Nossi Gross and the Zemer Orchestra.
Performer Simcha Leiner is no stranger to the NCSY stage, nor to Baltimore itself. After headlining the same concert two years ago, Leiner returned and delighted the crowd with a series of medleys from his own repertoire. He spent many years learning at Baltimore Yeshiva Ner Yisroel, and feels a bond with the Baltimore and Greater Washington community.
“I’m lucky enough that I got to spend many of my yeshiva years here in Baltimore, and because of that, a lot of people in the community got to experience my music when I was just starting out,” Leiner said. “I think that’s why I have a very special connection with the Baltimore, Silver Spring, and surrounding areas. I appreciate the energy that Baltimore brings that is unlike almost any audience I’ve ever experienced.”
In addition to serving as a premier musical event for the Jewish community every year, the concert also serves as a fundraiser for NCSY’s activities in the region. Over the course of the three-hour event, the audience heard from current Atlantic Seaboard NCSY participants and staff, who described the work that NCSY does in the community. Students shared stories about their involvement in various NCSY programs — including school clubs, after-school social programs, Shabbatons, and trips — underscoring their appreciation for an often-newfound connection to fellow Jewish teens and their own heritage.
As part of the program, organizers announced a fundraising raffle for those in attendance. Attendees were encouraged to buy a raffle ticket online for a chance to win $10,000, with the winning ticket drawn at the end of the concert. However, the raffle had a twist, whereby only 360 tickets were available, and the ticket price was chosen at random. Supporters agreed to purchase a raffle ticket, and would then be randomly assigned a ticket that cost anywhere from $1 to $360, with only one ticket available at each price. As the evening progressed, volunteers were invited to the stage to purchase a ticket live in front of the audience. By the end of the show, a winner was drawn, and one lucky supporter went home with $10,000.
By Miriam Cleeman and Aaron Tessler