Guinness hopefuls: World-record Hatikvah sing-along seeks local lungs

Flipping through the 2008 “Guinness Book of World Records,” one discovers that the largest verified custard pie fight took place in England in 1998 (50 people, 4,400 pies) and that 150 Dutch students dressed as cellular phones in 2006, establishing the mark in that coveted category.

And yet, there is no entry for “Most People Simultaneously Singing a National Anthem.” Well, not yet at least.

On May 7 — Israel’s 60th birthday — Israel’s Channel 2 will broadcast live satellite footage from the more than 200 worldwide ensembles belting out “Hatikvah” for a shot at the record. Called “Live Hatikvah,” hundreds of thousands of singers will likely take part.

And if you can spare a minute to shirk work or school and croon in Hebrew in the middle of a Wednesday, maybe you, too, can participate.

Galit Rand, local chair of the Women’s International Zionist Organization and an Israeli visiting scholar at Stanford, is looking for a few good singers (or even bad ones, honestly).

She’s already approached administrators at three elementary schools, Nimitz and Stocklmeir in Sunnyvale and Regnart in Cupertino (you can watch a clip of Nimitz students rehearsing on

The public schools, incidentally, are allowing rehearsal space for those who want to participate (rather than corralling everyone into it).

Religious schools, however, may be able to get more involved: Rand has received a confirmation from San Francisco’s Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy, Palo Alto’s Kehillah Jewish High School, Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City and El Cerrito’s Tehiyah Day School.

Rand and WIZO, incidentally, are not officially affiliated with “Live Hatikvah,” which is the brainchild of Israeli TV host and entrepreneur Galia Albin (who envisions the event as a unifying experience for Jews around the world).

Still, the idea resonated with Rand personally.

“My son, he is 9, and he knows how to sing the American anthem perfectly. We’ve been in the United States almost three years now and I just realized he doesn’t know the words [to ‘Hatikvah’].

“When I heard about this project, I felt that it could be an opportunity to teach and make an occasion of it.”

Rand, a sociologist who has studied the emergence of the Israeli wine industry, believes “the most important thing is not only the Guinness [record attempt]. That is just a gimmick. But this is an opportunity to organize Jewish and Israeli families and let them teach their kids.”

All local singing groups will digitally record their renditions of “Hatikvah.” Rand will then send those clips to the event’s Israeli organizers, who will, in turn, send their materials to England to make their Guinness record claim.

And if the May 7 Hatikvah-thon fails to dent the Guinness book … well, there’s always the listed record for the world’s largest shofar ensemble. On Sept. 25, 2005, 400 shofar players gathered in Elkins Park, Penn.

Are you saying the Bay Area can’t field 401?

“Live Hatikvah” will take place around 12 p.m. on May 7. Interested schools, businesses or individuals can contact Galit Rand at [email protected] or visit

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.