FON Spotlight Series: leaders share thoughts on launching new Jewish FON


Matthew Goldstein

Jewish FON leaders share their goals and motivations for this FON season.

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The annual Townsend Harris High School Festival of Nations season has arrived, with the addition of a new FON, Jewish FON, led by seniors Matthew Goldstein, Christian Smith, Finn Cervino, and David Singh.

After Matthew made the request for the culture to be represented, the other leaders were invited to lead the FON. David said, “All of us were on board with being a part of it and helping [Matthew] out.”

The leaders were presented with the challenge of framing what dances would constitute the new FON to fully capture the Jewish culture. Matthew said, “A lot of my early dancing experience comes from Jewish parties. The dances and music in Bar Mitzvahs can make people feel loose or strong.” 

With this new FON consisting of unique dance styles, Matthew said, “Not a lot of people know this, but Jewish dancing styles are extremely influential, dating back thousands of years.” He mentioned that his goal this year is to use those same traditions to create a new modern set of performances.  

 “Some dances are definitely classics, like the Horah and the Hava Nagila. There will be circle dancing and chair [lifting] of a certain teacher. There will also be a modern rendition of Jewish partner dancing,” Matthew said.

“We’ve definitely learned that the choreography from these events can be harder than it looks, but we have put the time into it, and now we are proud of what we were able to do,” Christian said. 

As Jewish FON moves beyond the early stages of preparing for FON, the leaders have noticed a sense of positivity and excitement from the students involved. Finn said, “We have a much more manageable 30-40 [members], and you can tell everyone wants to have a good time and make the performance as good as they can.”

 Junior Ali Hamja, a member of Jewish FON, said, “I like the FON because I am exploring a different culture that’s pretty new to me.” Noticing the effort put in by the leaders, he said, “[The leaders] incorporated a modern version look at Jewish culture in the present and I like these dances because of their liveliness.”

The leaders said they are excited for the performance to be showcased in March. David said, “We want everyone dancing and everyone watching to have a fun time.”