Ezra Schwartz was spending his gap year in Israel, studying at Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh and filling his free time by performing acts of kindness. Hailing from Sharon, Massachusetts, and beloved by all who knew him, Ezra had recently graduated from the Maimonides School in Brookline and had been voted “Most Spirited and Inspiring Staff Member” while working at summer camp prior to leaving for Israel. Personable and well-liked by his peers, Ezra was an exemplar of chesed, always ready to give of himself for the greater good. Indeed, he was on a chesed mission one Thursday when tragedy struck.
Ezra and other students from the yeshiva were in a minivan on their way to deliver snacks to IDF soldiers when a Palestinian motorist, armed with an Uzi submachine gun, opened fire on cars near the settlement of Alon Shvut, mortally wounding Ezra and two others.
To honor Ezra’s memory, Cedarhurst native Avi Beer, who was 18 at the time, together with Moshe Caplan and Daniel Yager and the Netiv Aryeh Band, released a song called “Borchi Nafshi” on November 30, 2016, and an accompanying music video. Currently a 21-year-old college student, Avi, who wrote the lyrics, composed the music, and edited the video, shared that Ezra’s passing “really hit home and inspired me to release this song in honor of him and convey a message of inspiration. I received messages from people thanking me for the video and telling me how it brought them to tears. During the past three years since that tragedy, we have experienced a tremendous amount of anti-Semitic and catastrophic events. “Borchi Nafshi” is a song that is meant to give people hope and strength. Even when we may find ourselves in dark times, Hashem is still there at our side, shining the light. We need to remember to praise Hashem and His greatness, and to recognize that everything is part of His master plan.”
Since then, Avi has released three new songs and music videos including “Mi Bon Siach,” which he describes as “a new twist on the classic chuppah song.”
A lifelong resident of the Five Towns, Avi attended HALB for elementary school and graduated from DRS High School. Following graduation, he spent the next two years studying in Israel, first at Yeshiva Kerem B’Yavneh, and the second year at Netiv Aryeh near the Kotel. When he is not studying for school, Avi divides his time between writing, recording, and singing. “My newest video for “Mi Bon Siach” gives viewers a glimpse into my everyday life as an up-and-coming singer,” he shares.
Upon discovering his passion for Jewish music at a tender age, Avi began taking center stage soon thereafter, performing his own shows for family and friends. While in sixth grade, he began performing professionally when he was invited to join the Yeshiva Boys Choir. Featured on the YBC album Sh’moy Shel Melech, Avi was an integral part of the Yeshiva Boys Choir for two years until he decided it was time to go on his own and start composing and producing his own music. “Since then I have been composing songs with hope to one day produce them all.” Heartfelt and soul-stirring, “Borchi Nafshi” was Avi’s debut release, a beautiful tribute l’ilui nishmas a young fallen hero.
He cites Baruch Levine as someone who has influenced him musically. “I admire his beautiful voice and music and really aspire to be like him one day.” Additionally, he is inspired by Yaakov Shwekey, whom he describes as having revolutionized the Jewish music world and lauds as being one of the greatest Jewish music singers of our generation.
With so many performers hoping to make their mark in the Jewish music arena, the road to success can be fraught with frustration. Indeed, it takes a truly unique artist to garner attention and build a fan base. Blessed with an abundance of talent, Avi is a rising star on the Jewish music arena, a gifted composer as well as a charismatic performer who is already generating buzz.
“Being able to compose my own songs creates a deeper connection when singing the songs,” he says. “Additionally, with all my songs, I try to focus on words that are original and no one has used before, or to put a new ‘twist’ on classic songs. This is to differentiate myself as much as possible in finding my niche in the music world.”
As he establishes himself as a sought-after wedding and simcha performer, our community shares in the nachas and takes immense pride in this Five Towns talent. Personable and unpretentious, Avi is a young man with a clear perspective regarding his priorities. Learning and college are of paramount importance and music is a conduit to inspire.
“The most rewarding aspect of it all is being able to affect and inspire people,” says Avi. “Someone actually messaged me saying that ‘No words can explain what your music means to me.’ I have also received messages from people saying that they listen to my music on their way to work every single day. While I may not be as popular right now as some of the other Jewish music stars in the business, receiving such messages makes it all worthwhile.
“Always follow your dreams if you are passionate and determined to succeed. While there may be many critics and obstacles along the way attempting to deter you from moving forward, it is important to stay strong and focused on accomplishing one’s goal. I hope that people enjoy my music and feel inspired after listening to it. My goal is for my music to inspire the listener to appreciate all that we have, and to recognize the One Above who gives us everything.”
For more information about Avi Beer, please visit AviBeer.com.
Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative media consultant, lecturer, and educator, and writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com. Read more of Rochelle Miller’s articles here.