Photo Credit: Hila Shiloni, Eliyahu Yannai, Yisrael Bardugo

In 2008, Odelya Berlin and her father Moshe (Musa) Berlin played together at Beit Avichai in Jerusalem for 180 women in an evening of inspiration and preparation for Yom Kippur. That is the night that Ochila was born.

Over the past 10 years, her show has reached audiences of thousands of women. Last year alone, 4,500 women attended.


In the midst of the Yom Kippur liturgy we sing, Ochila L’El, I shall put my hope in G-d.

Inbal V. from Jerusalem has been attending the show for years. “Ten years ago, I saw a small flyer about an evening of song and niggunim for Yom Kippur. Since it was right after a year of studying in a women’s seminary, I was looking for some type of spiritual awakening. This event was a transformative experience for me.”

The following year, the show moved to a bigger venue in Heichal Shlomo, Jerusalem.

“I knew I wouldn’t miss it for the world. This time I brought a bunch of friends. From year to year, the event grew so big that if I didn’t buy my tickets six weeks in advance, they would be sold out.”

During my recent phone interview with Odelya, she described how it all started.

“I always loved and connected to the songs and niggunim of the Yamim Noraim, but I had a hard time connecting in shul on the day itself. I personally found it to be stressful, and I was distracted by how much kavanah I should have, and found myself sometimes more preoccupied with my external appearance than with my prayer.”

That is when the idea to create an event for women to come and sing together on Erev Yom Kippur occurred to her. At first, some were skeptical, and didn’t think it would work. Who would leave their homes on Erev Yom Kippur? As the years progressed, the production caught on very quickly and took on a life of its own.

Odelya continues, “The women who come, come to sing. They are the ones who make it happen and make the experience unique. While during other performances, I have to get women warmed up and into it, here, from the first sound, the women are ready to connect to the music. Every woman in the audience and the performers all connect in their own way to the melodies and songs, whether they are observant or not.”

The event is held twice yearly during Aseret Yemei Teshuva. One night in Binyanei Hauma Hall that holds 1,000 women, and the other at Mishkan Le’Omaniyot Habama in Tel Aviv that holds over 2,000 women.

For many women, it is an opportunity to prepare themselves for Yom Kippur amongst hundreds of other women. For others, this evening might even replace the shul experience they will miss while caring for their children at home during Yom Kippur.

As one mother described, “Prayer in shul became more and more of a challenge for me as a mother of small children. Over the years, it has been almost impossible to get to shul on Yom Kippur, and this yearly event has become a type of preparation for and even an opportunity to pray in a way I wouldn’t be able to in shul.”

Women coming together to prepare for Yom Kippur in prayer is like going out to buy a new dress for the chag, with women walking out feeling spiritually clothed and basking in G-d’s Glory. A room of thousands of women singing and crying out in prayer is an incredible experience.

What does Ochila mean to Odelya?

“To me, the one word encompasses a lot of meanings and feelings towards to G-d; To love, to miss, to want and yearn for, and of course, to hope!”

Odelya, born and raised in Elkanah to Dina and Moshe Berlin (featured in Olam Yehudi in February 2017), is one of eight siblings. When she was 20 her parents moved to Gush Etzion, and Odelya moved to Jerusalem for many years before settling in Ramat Hasharon. She still considers herself a proud Yerushalmit.

Growing up, Odelya was influenced by many types of music: Jazz, Classical, Israeli Music, Hip Hop and more. Throughout the years though, Jewish chassidic music was always closest to her heart and that is where she has kept it.

“My father is Klezmer, Jewish musical expression. We generally think of Klezmer music as being old and belonging only to Eastern Europe. Really, Klezmer music has the power to be a conduit for each person’s strengths and feelings and is full of soul.”

Odelya started writing music in third grade, and performing at the age of fourteen at private events. “From a very young age, I always felt that there was something I wanted to express and release into the world. When I perform, it’s not important that people say how beautiful my voice is. Women who come to my shows are part of a potential process of connecting to their core inner selves. I hope and pray that the music has the power to help them experience change within themselves.”

After becoming more comfortable on stage, Odelya toured different Midrashot in Israel and went on to create women only alternatives, becoming the first to introduce Hakafot Shniyot at Midreshet Harova.

What started off as “women only” events, now are uniquely “Made for Women” events.

During that time, Odelya went on to study music and special education at Michlala in Jerusalem and produced her first CD, Shivil Shel Or, Path of Light with her original music in 2012. Over the last 10 years, Odelya has produced three other CDs containing songs and niggunim for Aseret Yemei Teshuva.

Just in time for the Rosh Hashana, Odelya released her new song “Slichot.”

“One year during Viduy, I realized that Hashem forgives us but we don’t always forgive ourselves. I was ready to forgive myself. I also realized that if I can give thanks to Hashem for my successes, then I can also give Him thanks for my failures.”

This past year Odelya Berlin was a recipient of a prize from Naftali Bennet at the Ministry Of Education in Jewish Culture and Creativity.

In recent past, Chabad has invited her to perform in New York, as well as to a private event in St. Louis, Missouri. She has also performed in Germany.

“The women are thirsty for meaningful inspiration, and I believe that the Ochila experience can really uplift women from all walks of life. I feel that Hashem opens doors for me, and at the right time, I would love to continue to bring my music to women around the world.”


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Annie Kadosh Orenstein is the co-founder and producer of Spotlight On Women/Bamah LaIsha, an initiative created to help women discover, develop and define who they are both on stage and off. Having worked with hundreds of performers over the last 10 years plus, she is the host of Spotlight On Women Radio and works at Emunah Jerusalem. Originally from Bklyn, NY, she lives in Ma’aleh Adumim with her husband and children.