Shalva Band Entertains Local Jewish Day School Students
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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News
Ahead of the Shalva Band’s community-wide performance to celebrate Israel at 75, four members of the band spoke to students from the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in Beachwood and Gross Schechter Day School in Pepper Pike to share a message of believing in oneself and never giving up.
Over 100 fifth through eighth graders from Mandel JDS and 25 fourth and fifth graders from Gross Schechter gathered at Mandel JDS May 8 as band director Shai Ben Shushan, drummer Yair Pomburg, and singers Dina Samteh and Anael Khalifa shared their stories and how Shalva Band came together. The Shalva Band, comprised of eight musicians with disabilities, performed on season six of The Rising Star in Israel and went on to represent Israel at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.
“They perform all over, they’re really great, and it’s dedicated to ... show the world, perhaps, the ability of what people with disabilities can do if given the opportunity to be included, to belong,” Jay Leberman, head of school at Mandel JDS, told the students as he introduced the Shalva Band.
Ben Shushan, who has directed the band for 12 years, said prior to leading the band, he suffered a life-threatening injury while part of an elite army unit, which made him want to make a change.
“If everything’s going to be OK with me, I want to do something to change a little bit of the world,” he said. “Because I feel what (it) is to be with disability, I feel that everybody helped me.”
That is when he came to Shalva, an organization in Jerusalem that provides services for people with disabilities, and began to hold auditions to put the band together. He introduced Pomburg, who auditioned over and over again, determined to join the band. Now, he said, he is the best drummer and has played with them around the world.
Samteh, who made aliyah from India, lost her sight at age 6. While she was scared at the time and her mother cried, she told her not to worry, that everything would be OK. Then, following the Shalva Band’s win on the realty television show, “Rising Star,” her mother told her, “If I would have known this would be your life, I wouldn’t have cried when you were a little girl.”
Khalifa also made aliyah from France and joined the band after filling in for Samteh during a concert. She shared that her favorite song they have performed is a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence,” which they performed during the second round of “Rising Star.” Up until that point, she was skeptical that the band’s previous success in the competition had been only due to their disabilities.
“That’s when I understood that maybe we have something else, and we’re just great because we’re great,” Khalifa said.
The Jewish Federation of Cleveland brought the Shalva Band in for a May 9 concert at Mimi Ohio Theatre to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary of independence. While in town, the Shalva Band held another speaking engagement with the Friendship Circle of Cleveland, Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland’s Horvitz YouthAbility and Yachad Cleveland.