Arbel began in 1973 as a student group at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of David Braverman, and gave its first performance in 1974 and performed for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin (z”l) in 1976. In 1978, Arbel alumnus Steve Friedes became conductor, and under his direction Arbel participated in the Zimriyah, Israel’s biennial international song festival.
Cantor Sheldon Levin directed the choir from 1983 until 1999. During this time Arbel made the transition from student to community choir, toured Israel, performed with Debbie Friedman and Craig Taubman, appeared at the North American Jewish Choral Festival and participated in concerts in honor of Israel’s 40th and 50th anniversaries. The chorale also began serving the community by providing Jewish-oriented entertainment for residents of nursing and retirement homes, for which Arbel has received grants from Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. .
Benjamin Gruder was Music Director from 1999 through 2005, leading the ensemble in a return engagement at the North American Jewish Choral Festival, and annual appearances at the Delaware Valley Zimriyah. Gruder also added his own “crossover” arrangements of Jewish standards to Arbel’s usual eclectic mix of repertoire.
Cantor Naomi Hirsch directed Arbel until 2007, and under her direction, the group performed with the Workman’s Circle Chorus, gave a Hanukkah performance at the National Museum of American Jewish History and continued to perform at area events for underserved audiences.
Alan Rothenberg served as interim conductor until the appointment of Robert Ross in Spring 2009. With the benefit of Mr. Ross’s extensive choral experience and knowledge of Jewish choral literature, Arbel looks forward to continuing its thirty-seven year tradition of exciting and interesting Jewish music.