Local teen hosts fundraising concert to support
Turkey and Syria earthquake victims
On Sunday, April 2, Great Neck North High School student Jacob Podwall hosted a benefit concert, Harmony for Humanity, at Temple Beth-El of Great Neck. Jacob is a skilled pianist who performed popular songs from artists like Coldplay, Green Day and Elvis Presley with vocal stylings of Temple Beth-El Cantor Adam Davis. The money Jacob helped raise in ticket sales and donations supports Northwell Health’s Turkey-Syria Relief Fund.
In early February, three rough earthquakes shook areas in Turkey and Syria, followed by some intense aftershocks. The quakes were followed by 3,858 aftershocks since Feb. 6, 38 of them over magnitude 5. A second 6.4 quake shook the region on Feb. 20, followed by 90 aftershocks, the largest of which was recorded at 5.8. On Feb. 27, a third quake with a 5.2 magnitude struck southern Türkiye, hitting parts of the same area shook by the Feb. 6 quake.
The earthquake epicenters are located in the east and south areas of Turkey, right above the Turkey-Syria border, leading to immense damage and deaths in both Turkey and Syria. Three hundred forty-five thousand apartments and over 50,000 buildings have been destroyed. Close to two million people were displaced after the earthquakes and in need of food, water, shelter and medical attention.
Jacob had seen images and videos of the destruction and heard reports of the many injured people suffering in affected areas on the news. Jacob’s mother, Barbara Podwall saw how Jacob reacted to the news and offered him a way to help out.
“He saw how horrible it was over there, and we came up with the idea to put on a concert and raise money to help them,” said Barbara. “He was excited to do that.”
As a physician with Northwell Health, Barbara heard about its Turkey-Syria Relief Fund. All donations to the fund provide vital medical assistance to ease the suffering of the people in affected areas. According to Northwell Health’s Center for Global Health relief funds website, “Donations will be directed to international relief partners, including Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has already deployed teams to provide medical assistance and support to the injured and mourning.”
The Harmony for Humanity benefit concert raised $5,500 for Northwell Health’s Relief Fund, with help from NSYNC pop star JC Chasez. According to a press release from Northwell Health, “Podwall’s fundraising efforts got the attention and a financial boost from JC Chasez. The frontman kick-started Podwall’s cause with a $1,000 donation.”
Helping others is a well-taught lesson for the Podwall family. In 2022 Jacob’s younger sister Abby and her friend Tori Sobiecki hosted a charity basketball game, Hoops for Humanity. The event helped raise $4,000 to donate to Northwell Health’s Ukraine relief efforts.
Jacob’s efforts to help others expands across the globe and reaches home. He started a club at Great Neck North High School called Community Music Project.
“They perform at various nursing homes and senior centers,” said Barbara. “He puts smiles on people’s faces.”
Jacob’s been playing the piano since first grade. Now in tenth grade, he has developed a real passion for piano. “He memorized and knew all the songs without any sheet music,” said Barbara. “School’s so stressful, and he can take a break from studies and play. It’s a fun kind of escape.”
The Harmony for Humanity benefit concert gathered a nice crowd of about 70 people, and Jacob played popular songs, with Cantor Davis joining in to sing on a select few. The room was full with people enjoying Jacob’s talent and support relief for the victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes.
A mix of ages attended the concert. One attendee that stood out was the granddaughter of a friend of the Podwalls. After the concert, she raved to her parents about the show and expressed excitement for her own piano lessons to begin.
The concert lasted about 45 minutes, followed by a pizza lunch with donated pies from Mangia Bene in Great Neck. A screen on stage showed some impactful images and footage from the damage in Turkey and Syria. Northwell Health provided a video showcasing what their relief funds go to, delivering food and supplies through Global Health.
Through Jacob’s efforts and the support he rallied, $5,500 was raised for Northwell Health’s Turkey-Syria Relief Fund.
To follow in Jacob’s footsteps and support the relief fund, visit https://support.northwell.edu/center-for-global-health