By COLlive reporter
From his bed in Los Angeles, Chabad Shliach Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz continues to inspire thousands of people around the world, all while battling a particularly cruel form of ALS, known as bulbar onset.
Two years ago, he received the painful news that he had been diagnosed with the disease. Since then, Rabbi Hurwitz, or as his friends call him “Yitzi”, gradually lost his ability to speak, followed by the ability to move any part of his body.
Using the latest technology, Yitzi taught himself how to type with his eyes, by staring at a screen in front of him, which then translates his eye movements into words.
“Yitzi’s mind is 110%”, says Dina Hurwitz, his wife and partner of 19 years. “The other day, the air conditioning in the room broke and Yitzi somehow managed to diagnose the problem and type to us what we should do to fix it,” said Dina.
Every week, Yitzi painstakingly types a thought on the parsha and has it posted on his blog. The typing with his eyes takes many hours and often results in Yitzi getting a fever or being overwhelmingly exhausted. Sometimes it can take a day to recover from it.
“Yitzi will always be a first class teacher with profound ideas to share and despite his unthinkable challenges, he continues to teach and inspire,” adds Dina proudly.
The Story Behind the Song
Seven years ago, Dina was facing a number of difficult challenges. Ever sensitive and wanting to lift her spirits, Yitzi took out his guitar and wrote and recorded a song for her called Shine A little Light.
Flash forward to this past year, and the family’s rediscovery of this powerful song. “To hear his voice now after Hashem has taken away his ability to speak, is very powerful and very moving,” says Dina, “if you know Yitzi, this is so him: despite not being able to speak, he has figured out a way to continue to inspire and uplift people he hasn’t even had the privilege of meeting.”
The Song & Music Video
As the song began to make its way outside of the family and reach the ears of the Jewish music industry, a wave of positive reaction to the song formed into an idea to create a music video honoring Yitzi and sharing his song and its message with the world.
To hear the original song with Yitzi, click here.
Some of the singers who have enthusiastically jumped on board include MBD, Avraham Fried, 8th Day, Benny Friedman, Yossi Green, Baruch Chait, Rivi Schwebel, Lipa, Yehudah Green, Simcha Leiner, Gad Elbaz, Eli Schwebel, Yoni Z, Eli Marcus and Baruch Shalom Blesofsky, with more singers to be hopefully announced soon.
“Yitzi is a very special person, I was privileged to spend a Pesach with him a couple of years ago and couldn’t be happier to be a part of this,” said Rabbi Baruch Chait, who recently played and sang for Yitzi at his bedside in Los Angeles.
The song will feature Yitzi’s original vocals and will be augmented by a full orchestral arrangement, a new bridge–with new lyrics written by Yitzi through eye recognition technology– and featuring the brightest names in Jewish Music.
The producers of the music video are asking that people from around the world learn the chorus of the song and then video themselves singing it and send it in so that it can be included in the music video.
Over the last few weeks of this summer a number of camps including Camp Simcha, Camp Rayim and Camp Gan Israel in Parksville, filmed their campers singing Yitzi’s song, some of that footage will be incorporated into the music video.
As the word begins to spread about the song and music video, people from across the globe have jumped at the opportunity to participate, including Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles and the Ohr Avner Jewish Day School in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. “We are honored to be participating in this song and music video,” said Wendy Kellner, Early Childhood Director at Harkham Hillel.
“We are hoping to unite people from around the world, through Yitzi’s song,” says singer Benny Friedman, “have fun with your video and send it in, and we’ll be thrilled to include it in the music video.”
For more information, or to join the production team or offer your talents, please contact [email protected]
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Audio: Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz sings