Electrifying, inspirational, and uplifting are some of the words used to describe the unique concert that took place on Sunday evening, October 26, in the Rose Theater of The Jazz at Lincoln Center. The Dream Team of musical mega-stars, Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot and Avraham Fried, performed individually and together in perfect harmony for the delight of the sold-out audience, at the first benefit concert for Project YES.
The evening was dedicated to the heroes of Project YES – the many hundreds of teen mentors and parent coaches in New York and other communities throughout the United States, who volunteer each and every week to work with at-risk youth and their families, guided and supervised by professional counselors.
For some of those present, this was their first introduction to Project YES. The audience sat spellbound as Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, founder of Project YES, described the work of these dedicated volunteers and this incredible organization.
As a veteran mechanech (educator) in the yeshiva system, Rabbi Horowitz spoke of his history of reaching out to troubled teenagers, before the term “at-risk” was ever coined, leading to the publication of his first article on the subject 11 years ago in The Jewish Observer. Response to the powerful article led to presentations about the escalating problem at the annual conventions of Agudath Israel of America and Torah U’Mesorah.
Rabbi Horowitz spoke warmly of the encouragement he received from Rabbi Moshe Sherer, z”l, whom he referred to as his mentor in work for the klal, who helped him found Project YES to begin to deal with the problem.
Rabbi Horowitz movingly described the need for expansion of the existing programs of Project YES and the creation of new innovative methods of reaching out and listening to the “kol demamah dakah” the “still soft voices” of children crying out, because they are growing up in unstable home environments, failing in school because of an unrecognized learning disabilities, or suffering from abuse or neglect.
He challenged the audience to partner with him in expanding the KESHER school program, which provides professional counselors to schools in three states, in a successful preemptive effort to sensitize educators to recognize and motivate “pre-risk” children. He introduced the brand new “People Helping People” program, where professional and experienced lay people will share with the public their know-how in parenting and counseling, on Rabbi Horowitz’s website.
A highlight of the evening was the screening of a video illustrating the work of Project YES from the perspective of children and families who benefit from receiving mentoring from Project YES volunteers.
The audience applauded the work of Mr. Harry Skydell and Mr. Mark Karasick, co-chairmen of Project YES; and Mr. Leon Melohn, and Mr. Dovid Weldler, previous chairmen of the organization. Rabbi Horowitz made special mention of his partner at Project YES, Rabbi Avrohom Meir Gluck, the director of operations, for his round-the-clock effort in organizing the benefit concert.
Integral to the musical majesty of the evening, produced by Suki and Ding Productions, was the superb accompaniment of the Neginah Orchestra masterfully led by Yisroel Lamm, and the performance of the Shira Choir. The audience left the concert hall at the end of the evening, still enthralled by the music of those two phenomenal performers, and inspired by the work of Project YES. To become a partner of Project YES please call the YES office at 718 758-3131 or visit www.rabbihorowitz.com.