Beth Tikvah Logo Beth Tikvah Congregation
300 Hillcrest Blvd Hoffman Estates, IL 60169


Beth Tikvah Congregation

Our House of Hope

300 Hillcrest Blvd, Hoffman Estates, IL 60169  


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From the Cantor's Desk

Ilana Axel, Cantorial Leader


Telling Our Stories: Kolan & Kol Shirah

A Brief History of Kolan

Kolan Alef 2008
Kolan Alef 2008
The first kids I ever met from Kolan (although this pre-dates the choir’s name) were Syd Bakal, Emily Rosell and Nathan Rosell. They were at that time around 8 years old. They sang at the first Jewish Choral Festival in Chicago in 2007 and I was there conducting the choir from my former congregation – the one I was about to leave to become the cantor at Beth Tikvah. These kids were really warm and sweet, and, pretty gutsy. This trio got up in front of 200 people and sang their hearts out. I remember it was Halleluyah by the Israeli composer Kobi Oshrat. They looked at me and said: “I think it will be fun working with you.” And then they hugged me. OMG, I began to realize how lucky I was moving to Beth Tikvah. And, indeed, I have had a blast growing and leading Kolan from 4 talented kids (Noah Woerner was also in the original group) into the fabulous children’s choir it is today.
Kolan Alef 2009
Kolan Alef 2009
Kolan has been meeting Sundays after Religious School since the autumn of 2007. It’s been ten years of high energy and surprises (and sometimes someone dozing on the chairs of the Sanctuary where we rehearse) but more often than not just a great bunch of children staying after school when they could be going earlier to lunch, just for the love of singing Jewish songs together. Today’s Kolan usually has anywhere between 15 and 25 children in it, all in grades 1 – 5. Usually when we participate in an area festival or concert we are the biggest choir there. Last year we were the only children’s choir to participate in the JUF’s Tu Bish’vat Celebration, in concert with artist Rick Recht.
Kolan Bet Chanukah 2010
Kolan Bet Chanukah 2010
We have sung with some of the Jewish world’s finest - Craig Taubman, Ellen Allard, Sam Glaser, Dan Nichols and Sababa! And, of course, Kol Tikvah. Kolan is one of the key players in our Purim Shpiel. And we know, collectively, some of the coolest Jewish songs, including When You Believe, Rabbi Ben Bag-Bag, Shabbes Yidn Zol Zain, Ocho Kandelikas, Kehillah Kedoshah, Banu Choshech L’garesh, and One Day.

Did you notice 4 different languages in this list? Indeed, here is Kolan’s clarion attendance call:

Kolan Alef & Bet at Barnes & Noble 2014
Kolan Alef & Bet at Barnes & Noble 2014

“Kolan, Kolan, how we love to sing and dance and play.

Hebrew, Yiddish, English too, we’ll show you the way!

We are best of all! Be sure to hear our call!”

“Kolan” is a slightly inventive Hebrew word meaning “little vocal group.” But there is not much little about these children except their shoe sizes. Their hearts and voices are big and clear.

What I Love Most About Kolan

Kolan Fun Pose, Mitzvah Concert 2015
Kolan Fun Pose, Mitzvah Concert 2015

I love watching them grow. They start with tentative voices and usually some shyness, then over the 5 years become fully expressed personalities with different musical leadership skills. Some become teachers. Some become soloists. Some choreograph. They learn to rehearse without constantly chatting or poking their neighbors (big reveal). I love the traditions we have established in Kolan – like birthday treats and singing Yom Huledet Same’ach with the Israeli rendition of “Hip Hip Hooray.” The Annual Chanukah Talent Show and the “Join Kolan” Recruitment Train (the brainchild of one of the students). Singing Imma Y’karah Li / My Parents are Special at the Parents’ Day Service. I love the parents who help us with polo shirts, chaperoning, providing treats and games for parties and just all around supporting their kids and Kolan itself in so many ways. Some have formed lovely intra-Kolan friendships.

Challenges and Next Steps

Kolan with Rick Recht 2017 (photo courtesy of
Kolan with Rick Recht 2017
(photo courtesy of

Many remember there used to be two Kolans – Alef for the younger children, and Bet for grades 6-8. We still have the polo shirts to prove it. We were challenged to find a more relevant musical vehicle for the older group. From this challenge Kol Shirah was born – our Youth Song Leading Group. This group is only 2 years old but it is growing itself through its own student leadership with adult input and supervision. We look forward to Kol Shirah developing its own traditions and becoming even more impactful in the years to come. Ask me about either of these groups; this is a good time to join. I am one lucky cantor, celebrating the story of Beth Tikvah in its 60th year.

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