Maccabeats bring unique sound back to Shearith
Photo: The Maccabeats
The Maccabeats will hold a concert at Shearith Israel at 4 p.m. Sunday Oct. 30 as part of the Small-Waldman-Cohen Signature Series.

By Shari Goldstein Stern

Shearith Israel Music Committee’s Small-Waldman-Cohen Signature Series brings back the internationally recognized Maccabeats to entertain with their brilliant a cappella vocals at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, in the Aaron Family Main Sanctuary.

According to Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker, “The Maccabeats are a unique group who continue to touch all ages. The group is always dynamic in performing its contemporary melodies, harmonies and stage presentation.

“I’m sure the group we enjoyed 10 years ago is enriched by its additional talent, subtle style changes and repertoire, always attracting a new audience. I don’t want to see people miss the opportunity to enjoy this unique group,” Zhrebker added.

It was at Yeshiva University (YU) in the fall 2007 when Michael Greenberg and a group of young, Jewish undergraduates who were passionate about singing realized they shared a special skill and talent: They loved singing a cappella. While other campuses hosted Jewish a cappella groups, YU did not. Greenberg assembled a group of singers who called themselves “The Maccabeats.”

According to Julian Horowitz, director of the Maccabeats, “Song was and is a big part of growing up in our community. We sing in shul, school and at the Shabbat table.”

“The core group came together over the following years. Of that group of 14, 10 still perform with us regularly,” said Horowitz, who began as a singer before becoming director. Those 10 founding artists have been making music together for 15 years. 

Throughout graduate school, marriage, families and careers, the men have remained enthusiastic about their art. Their ages range from 22 to 36. When asked about the scope of the vocalists’ background experience, Horowitz replied, “Some of us have studied music our entire lives. Others pursued music during their undergraduate years. Some still can’t find middle ‘C’ on the piano.”

Among the Maccabeats, there is a variety of educational backgrounds and degrees, from voice, orchestra, band, instruments, directing, performing arts, theater and more. They represent a full range of training and experience.

The Maccabeats share their gift with audiences around the world. They continue to lead traditional Shabbat services, which is where many of them started singing while growing up. But their primary “gigs” are live concerts. The Maccabeats have been to six continents and 41 states in the U.S. “Dallas is up there,” Horowitz quipped. 

The talented young men have played sold-out performances to thousands at JCCs, temples, synagogues, shuls, Chabads, Hillels, jazz clubs, festivals, conventions and theaters.

The Maccabeats were invited to Gracie Mansion by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; President Barack Obama invited the Maccabeats to the White House. 

Most Maccabeats live in the New York area. When they perform anywhere from Boston to Washington it’s usually a road trip. They fly commercially to other destinations. According to Horowitz, “One ‘lone’ Maccabeats, Noah Jacobson hails from Houston, which he occasionally honors in our videos by wearing his NASA uniform. Unfortunately, he won’t be joining us at Shearith Israel.”

When queried about “day jobs,” Horowitz  replied, “Each of the Maccabeats has two full time jobs: being a Maccabeats and being a professional, like an architect, lawyer, doctor, lawyer, educator, lawyer, accountant, lawyer, etc.”

Regarding the Maccabeats’ mission Horowitz said, “Some might call it ‘edutainment,’ or education plus entertainment, to which I would also add ‘inspiration.’ Music is a powerful medium. We also want to have fun!”

Shearith Israel’s Music Committee chairperson, Dena Fein, said, “When the Maccabeats performed here 13 years ago and again 10 years ago, it was as if the Beatles were performing at Shearith. That’s how excited everyone was!” In fact, both performances sold out.

“They always bring incredible vocals and can make any song their own. Their holiday and Broadway songs are my favorites,” Fein added.

Zhrebker said the group’s social media following has added to the excitement. “People who have seen them before on You Tube will appreciate the enhanced energy of this live performance. Those who experienced the group’s live, Shearith Israel appearance 10 years ago will appreciate the Maccabeats’ repertoire, which is always innovative. With new singers joining the seasoned artists all the time, each performance is fresh,” he said.

To catch up on the Maccabeats latest offerings visit their YouTube channel at Visit to purchase tickets for the Oct. 30 concert. 

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