Musical company

Jewish Women’s Repertory Company Creates Home Songs

When a global lockdown takes you away from something you love, what do you do? Simple. You find a way to do it anyway. And, if you can uplift others in the process, even better.

The Jewish Women’s Repertory Company (JWRC) has done just that with “Songs from Home,” 12 music videos released over the past two years designed to inspire and bring the community together virtually.

JWRC, which Margy Horowitz and Linda Freedman founded in February 2005, offers Jewish women the opportunity to sing, dance and perform for an all-female audience. Outside of COVID times, they produce a full musical and cabaret show every year. More than 150 women from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform backgrounds have performed with the group.

In March 2020, they were about to start auditions for their next performance when COVID hit. “Everyone was kind of like, what do we do now?” Horowitz told the Journal. “We love making music together and singing together and harmonizing together.”

Horowitz explained how a tradition she started at her synagogue, B’nai David-Judea in Pico-Robertson, led to the group’s COVID community initiative. In 2016, for his daughter Julia’s bat mitzvah, Horowitz gathered friends from the JWRC to sing for Julia as she approached the bima for her aliyah. The synagogue boys had a choir to call out to them during their bar mitzvah, so Horowitz decided the girls should too. Other parents approached Horowitz, asking the group to sing for their daughters.

The first weekend of the lockdown, when a bat mitzvah scheduled for that Shabbat had been canceled, Horowitz called Reyna Zack, JWRC’s vice president of communications, to see how to create virtual aliyah.

They came up with the idea to do a video on Thursday, got together six or seven women from the shul, and had a video done on Friday.

Horowitz, along with Zack, who she calls her “co-conspirator” in the Virtual Music Project, thought the band could perform a virtual song because they couldn’t do an actual show.

The first song from home was “Seize the Day” from the musical “Newsies.”

“We put it online,” Horowitz said. “People in the community were so happy to see him.”

Since COVID wasn’t going away and they knew it would be a while before they could sing together in person, Horowitz and Zack decided to continue producing Songs from Home. It’s a complex process that they both enjoyed.

“Reyna and I choose a song together [and] rearrange it to [an] hour-long harmony,” said Horowitz, who is a piano teacher and trained musician. “Many scores are written for soprano, alto, tenor [and] bass, but we have to create our own versions because we’re all women.

Horowitz and Zack record and send the tracks to the women who participate, which are usually 20 to 25 women divided into four groups. The interpreters record and send their voice. They also videotape themselves singing along with their parts. Horowitz and Zack, who combine all the parts into one cohesive video, have become experts in video production.

“It’s been really fun,” Horowitz said. “I hope we did something that gave the community some strength. [We’re saying], ‘Don’t give up, keep going. We will continue to make music; stay with us and we will be back.”

JWRC is now in rehearsals for their upcoming musical, “Something Rotten,” which they hope to perform at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in late March. They are also working on their thirteenth Song from Home, which is “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from “Kiss Me Kate”, as it is related to the series.

JWRC’s goal is to have fun while raising money for worthwhile charities. A portion of the profits from JWRC broadcasts are donated to JFS Hope, a program of the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles.

JWRC’s goal is to have fun while raising money for worthwhile charities. A portion of the profits from JWRC broadcasts are donated to JFS Hope, a program of the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. They even produced a virtual benefit concert last March, where they created 20 song videos, shared via livestream.

“The original idea was to create a business where women would have the chance to show off their talents for the community in a kosher environment for [the] Orthodox,” Horowitz said. Another reason was philanthropy.

“We behave as women to help other women in need,” she said. “It’s a way for us to show our solidarity with women in general. And it’s a fun way to express [ourselves].”