Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

Though Elaine Jacobson had been involved in choral music for around 20 years, the lack of Jewish ballads made her feel like there was a weakness in her musical education. This inspired her to fix the problem.

Jacobson is the treasurer of ShabbaTones, a nonprofit chorus that was founded in Gainesville in 2019. Although it is not tied to UF or any religious institution, it focuses on Jewish songs.

Richard Sadove, ShabbaTones’ vice president, helped establish the chorus with Jacobson. He said Jewish choral music is all over the world but was a rarity in North Central Florida. 

“We’re celebrating the rich heritage and beauty of Jewish music down through the millennia,” Sadove said.

ShabbaTones will hold auditions Jan. 22 at UF Hillel from 6-7 p.m. Students can sign up through ShabbaTones’ Facebook. It is also offering a basic musical skills class before auditions for students to test and practice their abilities.

During auditions, the singers will meet Will Kesling, a UF choral professor and the music director and conductor for ShabbaTones. Although he is not Jewish, Kesling is excited to learn more about Jewish history, Sadove said. 

The audition will take about five to 10 minutes. The vocalist will sing a couple of notes or a song to make sure there is sectional balance, Jacobson said.

“People shouldn’t feel intimidated by the audition,” Jacobson said. “It’s a very friendly atmosphere.”

Jacobson and Sadove, who are both Jewish, live in Gainesville and formed the nonprofit group with others on their committee. 

Sadove wants to allow students the opportunity to listen and participate in a Jewish choir, as he and his parents did. Students will also learn the history behind the songs, he said. 

“We’re very excited about being here with the University of Florida student population,” Sadove said. “Here we have a real opportunity for people to strengthen their Jewish identity and pride.”

ShabbaTones’ first performance will be April 23 at the Historic Thomas Center, located at 302 NE Sixth Ave. It will include modern and century-old music. There will be songs not only in Hebrew but in other languages like Spanish and German, Sadove said.

After auditions, the group will dive right into practice from 7-9 p.m., Jacobson said. Further rehearsals will be held on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at UF Hillel.

“I’m really grateful that the ShabbaTones has been formed,” Jacobson said. “I’m looking forward to learning about that repertoire that I’m very ignorant about.”

Contact Meghan McGlone at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @meggmcglone.