Eli Gefen and his Alei Gefen choir are one of our country's unsung treasures. Composed mainly of immigrants from the FSU, many of them trained singers, the choir was formed in 1990. It sings devotional songs from the Jewish and Christian liturgy to audiences of all religions, and sings them with a purity of tone, a perfection of phrasing and a glorious musicality that any other choir can envy.
Nobody gets any money for all of this because it is a voluntary organization, and, as Eli Gefen has said, "the chorus would like to be seen as a witness to the hopes and values of those who long for peace."
The choir has sung in Toledo in commemoration of the 1492 expulsion of Spain's Jews. It has appeared in Vienna to commemorate the infamy of Kristallnacht in 1938. It has sung at the Pearl family Days of Music to commemorate with beauty the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl by Islamic terrorists in 2002.
Last night Alei Gefen sang at a ceremony honoring the South African Zionist Federation (Telfed) volunteers. It sang gloriously in English, Hebrew and Russian, with Gefen conducting.
One of the songs, and it is sung at every concert, is "Tabernacle of Peace" by cantor David Grosz. One of Vienna's most celebrated cantors, Grosz was Eli Gefen's father, last seen when Gefen left for Palestine in 1939 at the age of 15. His entire family perished in the Holocaust. A few years ago Gefen received a package from Vienna. In it was the original manuscript of Grosz's song, annotated in his handwriting. A Viennese archivist had found it, located Gefen, and forwarded it to him.
For Gefen it is a talisman for the power of good.
If the choir has a date near you, and you get to hear of it, go. Do yourselves that favor.