THE CHOIR at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue occasionally performs beyond the portals of the synagogue, and is therefore no stranger to applause.Yet for it to be applauded during a Simhat Torah service is indeed a rarity.But that’s what happened last week when the choir delivered a Hebrew rendition of the chorus of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” in a slightly more spirited adaptation. The tunes sung by the choir were a potpourri of snatches of popular liturgical and non-liturgical melodies, including inter alia, in addition to Cohen, that of Carlebach and Chabad, with “Hatikva” and even “Bendigamos,” which is sung in Ladino in Sephardi communities.
The Hatan Torah was President Reuven Rivlin, who, as he had done previously, came in an opennecked shirt, refused the seat of honor and sat with the congregation, where he received numerous handshakes and became engaged in many conversations. When called to the Torah, he was led by a procession of dancing men and boys under a giant tallit that resembled a bridal canopy. He recited the blessing in a loud, clear and confident voice that carried all the way to the back of the large ladies’ gallery.Though not yet in office for 100 days, Rivlin has participated in more Jerusalem synagogue services than did any of his predecessors in the same time frame, and seems to be perfectly at home in whichever synagogue he visits.HEICHAL SHLOMO is the new location of Chabad Rehavia, where on Simhat Torah night and at lunchtime the following day, community members stood outside and invited passersby to come in for the kiddush. Not that there was a shortage of participants – long trestle tables had been laid out in the lobby and some 150 or more men were seated at them, while upstairs in the circular gallery, women were also sitting at tables laden with food and drink.During the dancing, the women gathered around the railing of the gallery to watch, but there were notices all around the gallery warning not to allow children to stand on chairs to watch.Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg, who has a large brood of children of his own, is the resourceful and dynamic director of Chabad Rehavia, and has in a relatively short period built up a huge following. Moreover, he has developed an endless stream of sponsors who ensure that a kiddush can be held every Shabbat and holiday. Goldberg attaches great importance to providing a welcoming environment for all, but particularly for people of all ages who live alone and may really need a sense of community.BECAUSE SO many of its congregants are native English speakers, Talbiyeh’s Hazvi Yisrael congregation has a lecture-cum-study-session in English almost every week, following the Saturday morning service in Hebrew. The lecturers generally are local rabbis or teachers, some of them members of the congregation.But last Saturday, there was a guest lecturer from the US: Rabbi Daniel Lapin of Seattle. Recognized as one of the foremost Jewish communicators in America, Lapin has his own radio program and appears on TV in his show, Ancient Jewish Wisdom with Rabbi Daniel Lapin. The president of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians and the founding rabbi of Pacific Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue in Los Angeles, Lapin is famous for his ability to extract life principles from ancient Jewish wisdom and make them accessible to people of all backgrounds.During the service itself, Rabbi Avigdor Burstein, who gives a brief Hebrew sermon each week and has a gift for a saying a lot in a few words, quoted famous Bible scholar Nechama Leibowitz, who used to say that when she was a young girl, she asked her father whether it was true that one had to be on their best behavior between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.He had assured her this was indeed true, but that it was equally important to be on one’s best behavior between Yom Kippur and the next Rosh Hashana.SUPREME COURT Justice Neal Hendel will be the guest speaker at Shir Hadash Congregation in the Shabbat-Tarbut series under the auspices of the Ginot Ha’ir Community Center. He will speak on October 25 at the congregation’s new location in the Ohel Nehama Synagogue, 3 Chopin Street, near the back of the Jerusalem Theater. His topic at 10:45 a.m. will be “Lashon Hara – Libel and the Law,” and the afternoon lecture at 5:30 will be “Criminal Law and Halacha.”HADASSAH ENGLISH-SPEAKING chapters in Jerusalem are busy. On Monday, October 27, the Tamar Chapter will hold its annual Benefactors Tea at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where exterior architect Matti Rosenshine will discuss the vision that inspired the renovation of what was initially the Palace Hotel, and then for many years the Industry, Commerce and Trade Ministry, before it was restored to its current splendor and given the name Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. Also attending the event will be Leah Reicin, a long-term Hadassah activist and member of Hadassah’s National Board in America, who will update Tamar members on what is happening in Hadassah’s medical centers.ON WEDNESDAY, October 29, Hadassah’s Nechama chapter will hold a memorial film night for eminent journalist Bob Slater, who died earlier this year.Slater was a keen baseball fan and was interested in other sports as well, especially those with top-line Jewish players, authoring the groundbreaking book Great Jews in Sports.In his memory, the Nechama chapter will present a screening of Jews and Baseball – An American Love Story, narrated by actor Dustin Hoffman – who, as it happens, is also Jewish. The film’s central focus is on the two stereotypes Jewish baseball players had to overcome – one being the common belief that Jews were not athletic, the other the anti-Semitism that emanated not only from the stands but also was present on the field.Slater’s wife, Elinor, who collaborated with him on several of his works, will speak briefly about the research undertaken for Great Jews in Sports. The screening will be held at the Kehillat Ramot Zion community center, 68 Bar Kochba Street, French Hill.A COMMANDER in the IDF reserves, Jeremy Gimpel, the deputy director of the World Mizrahi Movement, was called to duty during Operation Protective Edge and spent much of that period in Gaza, where he was wounded. At a large Succot party hosted last week by his parents, Lynn and Amnon Gimpel, he described what it was like to get the same army rations of tuna and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, day after day. Eventually, when he and the men under his command crossed back into Israel, they were offered pizza, which they devoured with indescribable joy.THE CORNERSTONE ceremony for the new campus of the Mekor Haim Yeshiva, in perpetuation of the memories of murdered yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, took place last week at the entrance to the Neveh Daniel settlement in Gush Etzion, in the presence of members of the families, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Education Minister Shai Piron, Mekor Haim Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Dov Singer and Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Pearl.