Maryland Native Captures Jerusalem in Original Hebrew Song


Juliana Lynch was nearing the home stretch of her gap-year studies at Midreshet Emunah v’Omanut, a Jerusalem-based seminary. But she was determined to squeeze in a last-minute project before leaving the Holy Land in early June.

“Without knowing how it would turn out, I decided that I was going to push for it and see what happens,” Lynch said.

The inspiration to write her original Hebrew song was spurred by the festivities on Yom Yerushalayim, a raucous holiday that epitomizes the spirit of the Jewish people, Lynch said.

The City of Jerusalem was bathed in white and blue. With Israeli flags in hand, thousands flooded the streets to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Lynch was in awe. Energized by the ruach of the Jewishpeople and the need to complete an assignment for a songwriting class, the 19-year-old spent the following nightdrafting the first verse to her now-published song “Yerushalayim Ir Ami,” or “Jerusalem, City of My People.”

“I wanted it to be my work and my expression, but I had a very limited Hebrew vocabulary,” Lynch said. “I thought about what I wanted to say and how I could say it in the simplest terms.”

Music was always in her blood, said her father, Jack Lynch. While attending high school in Frederick County, the trained singer participated in All-State Choir and the Baltimore Chapter of HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir.

“It’s always been a passionof hers,” Jack said. “She’s incredibly gifted, and we’ve known that since she was little.”

Her passion for the craft even influenced her to attend Midreshet Emunah v’Omanut, which offers music classes in addition to the seminary’s core Torah studies program. And once the now freshman graduates from New York University with a degree in music education, she hopes to maintain her involvement in the Jewish music realm.

“It’s truly where my passion lies, so I definitely plan to make a place for myself there,” Lynch said. “The question will be to what extent.”

The Maryland-born singer didn’t hit the ground running with her musical piece until her final week in Jerusalem.

With little time but ample resources, Lynch recruited two seminary friends, guitarist Shira Solomon and percussionist Rina Cohen, to participate in the music video. The trio made a mad dash to produce the song before printing their one-way tickets to the states.

They recorded the song in a music studio owned by the husband of a woman who worked at the seminary.

“I just get on board with anything Juliana asks me to do musically,” Solomon said with a laugh. “She’s such a talented person.”

The girls wandered the stone-lined streets of Jerusalem with a video camera provided by the seminary. From taking shots of the bustling shuk on a Friday to the golden rays of a sunset in Jerusalem, they hoped to capture the essence of a city that would always be near and dear to their hearts.

“I had a vision, but it wasn’t set in stone,” Lynch said. “I wasn’t sure how every part would look like, so I tried to get enough material to cover the whole song. I’d never done anything like this before, so I didn’t really know how much I needed.”

Lynch continued taking video up until her last few hours in the city she grew to call home.

After she returned to her native Maryland, Lynch got to work on piecing her video together in an editing program. With the help of her brother, she learned the ropes, completed her music video and uploaded it to YouTube on Sept. 3. It has more than 600 views.

As someone who grew up attending public school in a city with a humble Jewish population, Lynch said she wanted to show her friends what she had been up to in Israel.

“They knew I was in Israel, but they had no idea what I was doing — what it was like over there,” she said. “I wanted to make something
that would display the culture and give a sense of where I’d been for the year and the special things that happened there.”

Although the nearly five-minute video is a heartwarming reminder of her year in Israel, it serves a greater purpose.

“There are more and more women stepping up and contributing to the field of Jewish music, but it’s not necessarily a common thing,” Lynch said. “Part of the purpose of this video was to put something out there for middle and high school girls wondering, ‘Can I really do this? Is there a place for me?’ And the answer to those questions is yes.”

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