The Yossi Fraenkel Orchestra & Singers


Yossi Fraenkel has championed the cause of bringing joy to children with special needs and their families for many years. His regular appearances at concerts like The Friendship Circle, and for organizations like Camp HASC , Ohel and Camp Simcha has proven how music makes a big difference in their lives and our own.

Over the span of his career Yossi Fraenkel has performed before audiences of people with special needs innumerable times. He also makes hundreds of personal appearances each year by special request. Whether it is at the Bar Mitzvah of someone with Down syndrome; at the bedside of a cancer patient; or the wedding of someone recovering from a coma, Yossi has been there. In his own words he says, “People think I give them chizuk, but the truth is I get chizuk from them. The simcha, pure joy, exhibited by children with developmental disabilities is unbelievable!”

It is easy to understand why. As Yossi explains, “Music is the language of the soul. While someone with a developmental disability may have a body that is limited, his or her soul comes shining through. The person’s neshama is intact and delights in the joy he experiences. To witness this kind of simcha is inspiring.”

According to Yossi Fraenkel, music can be used as a tool to help people elevate themselves to a higher spiritual level. Music leaves its mark. He tells a story about a time he was called into a hospital to sing for the patients, when he walked into one room there was a boy of four and a half years old who had been in a comma for almost three months. after seeing the boy in the coma Yossi said a tefillah then he asked the father of the boy what his best song is. to which the father answered " I don't know" so Yossi then asked the chaplain, who answered " sing the chabad song "Keili Atah" so Yossi then started to sing and half way through the song the young boy opened his eyes stared at him and started crying. He also tells another story of a time when he was in
Israel and a family asked him to visit the bedside of a man in his forties who had been in a coma for twelve days. The doctors had given up hope and had said that he would never recover. Standing at his bedside, Yossi beheld this man who could not respond to touch or the spoken word and wondered how to reach him. The man’s wife mentioned that he loved the song Tanya made popular by Avraham Fried and asked him to sing it. So he did. A few weeks later, the man’s wife called to say that her husband had recovered and the next time Yossi was in Israel she asked him to visit. When they met, the man said that the entire time he was in the coma he knew nothing of what was going on around him, but he does remember that when he was “up there” he heard the beautiful melody of Tanya being sung by Yossi Fraenkel. It was after that experience that he slowly started to recover and awaken. As an aside, Yossi says that he had the z’chus to be in Israel one year later and was able to participate in the simchah of the birth of this man’s daughter. Their connection touched him deeply and he shares the following message to people everywhere, “Experiences like these make us realize that we are all players in Hashem’s world and we must do all we can to reach out to another person in need.”

Photo: Yossi Fraenkel and young fan
at a Private concert for special needs kids

Several years ago, Yossi sang at a camp concert for special needs children. After hours of singing and dancing, one child, seated in his wheelchair and who could not speak came up to him and wrote on his communication device, “I never had a day like this in my entire life. Thank you.”

Yossi tells of the time that he visited an eleven-year-old boy. He was shocked by the boy’s condition. He could not communicate or move; he was in a comatose state. As he wondered what to do, a thought came into his mind. It occurred to him that he could bless the boy with the Birchas Kohanim and as he started the word, “Y’vorechacho” the boy became agitated and his hand started to grope around for something. The boy’s father noticed that his son’s yarmulke had fallen to the side and once they put the yarmulke back on his head he became calm.

Episodes like the ones shared here left Yossi convinced of the importance of doing all he can for people in need. He carries this responsibility to such an extent that in his tefillin bag, he carries a list of the names of the people he has met (many of them children) to pray for them as he says his daily Tehillim. Not long ago, as he was catching a flight at
Chicago ’s O’Hare airport, a man approached him and handed him a package. He asked Yossi to look at it on the airplane. Enclosed was a “before” picture from when he had visited the man’s child at a local hospital and this was accompanied by an “after” picture with the child back home. B”H he had fully recovered. A note was attached thanking him that said that no words could express their gratitude for his visit to their child. And yes, this boy is on Yossi’s Tehillim list.

Yossi quotes the Kotzker Rebbe as saying that when two people speak in unison you cannot hear either and the message gets distorted. With song however, as more people join in, the harmony that is created becomes more beautiful. When everyone joins together in song, it enhances the enjoyment had by all. As Yossi says, “Singing with these kids is the ultimate z’chus, the rest is gravy.”