The Fellowship of Artists is the artistic branch of Maoz. Through their efforts, talented Israelis receive scholarships to study at music academies, as well as to receive private tutoring and the opportunity to develop their musical abilities. In addition, they organization provides training for talented Israeli youth and offers mentoring in fellowship and discipleship so the students may grow spiritually and mature in character.
In addition, the Fellowship of Artists (FoA) provides recording studio facilities in Jerusalem with over 3,000 sq.ft. of professional studio space and an in-house team of technicians and musicians to serve the artists in all aspect and stages of the creative process. Local musicians are also provided with opportunities to connect with international artists and to record in the Jerusalem studio. In addition, believing musicians have opportunities to use their music to minister both in Israel and abroad.
The studio is managed by Gabriel Elbaz, a talented drummer who made aliyah from France at a young age. Growing up, Elbaz was influenced by African and Middle Eastern cultures, which is demonstrated in his unique style of Israeli worship music.
He specializes in making others sound great – redefining what “Israeli worship” actually is, not only by contributing his talent on the drums but as the studio manager.
FoA, founded in 2017, is a ministry of the organization Maoz Israel, which was founded more than 40 years ago in 1976.
Shani Ferguson, FoA’s co-founder and chief creative officer, works alongside her husband Kobi, who is CEO and president of Maoz Israel.
Born in Israel in the 1970s to immigrant American Jewish believers and Maoz Israel founders Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram, Ferguson describes herself as being “part of the first generation of Jews born in Israel and raised as believers in Yeshua in 2,000 years.”
Ferguson describes how her parents, who met and married in the mid-70s, started one of the first Messianic Jewish congregations in 2,000 years in their home in Herzliya. Back then, the congregation consisted of English-speaking believers from Western countries and local believing Israelis who only spoke Hebrew. While the worship songs were all in English, the Sorko-Rams wanted it to be in Hebrew.
“They brought along their friends David and Lisa Loden, who were delighted to teach the group their newly written Hebrew worship songs,” Ferguson said.
This move to bring Hebrew worship to Messianic believers in Israel can be seen as the roots of the FoA, which dedicates itself to raising up modern-day psalmists to write and perform worship music in Hebrew for Israeli believers and believers worldwide.
Ferguson said FoA has plans to collaborate with worship leaders from France and Brazil, who will travel to Jerusalem to create worship music in French, Portuguese and Hebrew.
“The nations are coming to Jerusalem to experience quality worship music,” she said.
Ferguson says FoA has signed an agreement with Colorado Springs-based Integrity Music in the United States, which is working to include Hebrew worship into its offerings.
“Integrity can get music out in mass. This allows for greater distribution,” Ferguson said. We are working to produce a new Israeli worship song every Friday in Hebrew, with some in Arabic.”
FoA has their own recording label “Achvat Omanim” or “United Artists.” Their music is available online through Maoz Israel Music.
Israeli musician and worship artist Shilo Ben Hod has used the services offered by Maoz Israel Music to record his distinctive Hebrew worship music with a Middle Eastern flair such as “Tsur Israel” (Rock of Israel) and “Boreh Kdoshim” (He Who Makes Us Holy) – both of which are available online on YouTube.
Other artists who have used FoA recording studio facilities, include Evan Levine, Yaron Cherniak and Birgitta Veksler, as well as the Sakhnini Brothers who record their praise in Arabic. Ferguson, herself, is a gifted praise singer who records for the label, as well.
Because of the new immigrants to Israel from all over the world, the FoA has access to various genres of music, including classical and ethnic, and at the same time, groups from abroad are able to come to the studio to record and are able to benefit from the talents of the local musicians. Besides local musicians, FoA is currently working with musicians from the United States, Brazil and Romania.
“When musicians from abroad visit the studio facilities, they are impressed with it, They are amazed that Israel offers such facilities. We have developed a culture of cooperation that became strong during the pandemic when people, working from home, strove together to build the Kingdom of God on both a secular and spiritual level.” Ferguson said.
“The music is the product of developing a place of support for worship leaders, many of whom have issues due to their quirky personalities,” she added, saying that often the musicians are people who had menial jobs, such as working in factories, and whose talent and skills weren’t being utilized.
The Fellowship of Artists, allows them “to really use the gifts that God gave them,” Ferguson said of the many musicians, singers, songwriters, and studio technicians that they work with.
FoA features a children’s program called, “Music Making For Kids,” which includes approximately 60 children who have been receiving support for their musical development for over a decade.
Support includes music lessons and the opportunity to participate in international competitions, among other things.
In April 2019, prior to the COVID pandemic, the fourth annual international vocal competition – in memory of the great Jewish tenor, Mikhail Alexandrovich – took place in Israel.
One of the main objectives of that competition was to identify and support young local talent. A panel of professional judges, including well-known singers and composers from Israel, Lithuania, Russia and Germany, evaluated the performances.
During the two days of competition, 133 vocalists – ages 5 to 25 – flew in from all over the world to perform in classical, folk, and pop style performances in front of a panel of judges.
Three of the contestants from Maoz Israel’s music program, all aged 10, competed and were among those who received an award for best performance.
Ferguson described “Music Making For Kids,” as Maoz Israel’s vision of creating the best possible Israeli worship music, by finding and training young talent.
“We test each child several times a year to ensure they are progressing. And they compete for the scholarships offered each year. They are trained vocally and study a variety of instruments – from cello to saxophone to guitar to drums,” explained Ferguson.
Within a few years, this young talent will be ready and able to fill much-needed positions on worship teams across the country and even write their own original Israeli worship, Ferguson said.
“They are being given ten years of experience with instruments so that when they get to the point of recording for the Lord, they will be excellent musicians,” added Shira, saying that the children attend believing congregations and receive mentorship and ongoing assessments by their teachers.
Shira said they are raising up “modern day psalmists” and that the intention is “to raise them up to fill the land of Israel with worship.”
After a long process, when the children become mature musicians and have proven themselves, they will be given access to the Jerusalem studio, to record their worship songs and to receive royalties for their effort.