Chabad Rehavia sign.
(photo credit: WWW.JERUSALEMCHABAD.ORG)
RAIN KEPT many people away from Shabbat services last week, but the Hazvi Yisrael synagogue was more than half full – the reason being the Zimratya Choir conducted by Dr. Uri Aharon.
This congregation does not have a regular cantor to lead the services, let alone a choir, so this was quite a Hanukkah treat, in more ways than one. Not only did it make a difference to the service, but the soloists each had magnificent operatic voices that they knew how to project. While some of the female congregants all but hung over the railing of the women’s gallery in their desire to see as well as to hear, there were other congregants who were less enamored with the service and regarded it more in the nature of a concert which intruded on their ability to pray. The choir sang melodies with which most of the congregants were not familiar, particularly during Hallel, which though beautifully rendered, was disappointing because the congregation likes to join in the singing with whoever may be leading the service.
But these complaints aside, the singing was truly amazing. Rarely has anything of such high quality been heard in this congregation.
IN 1952, the multi-talented Gene Kelly directed, choreographed and starred in a film called Singin’ in the Rain. Co-stars were Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor – and although all three were accomplished dancers as well as singers, none had quite the fervor displayed last Saturday night by Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg, the director of Chabad of Rehavia, who had planned a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at what most Jerusalemites call Paris Square, but which is officially France Square.
The event was supposed to be graced by Great Synagogue cantor Haim Adler, who in all probability was deterred by the rain and didn’t make an appearance. But much to Goldberg’s surprise, some 25 people did turn up, including his good friend Roee the Clown, who came in full dress on his bike with a tape recorder covered in plastic strapped to the back. Roee provided the music and Goldberg and some of the men present began to dance. But even before Roee’s arrival, when Goldberg had lit seven candles in the rain and they had been extinguished by wind and water, Goldberg began to sing and the melody was a signal for the dancing. One of his children brought a huge box of doughnuts which got a little soggy from the rain, but that was not sufficient reason for most people to desist, and the contents of the box quickly disappeared. Several attempts to rekindle the candles failed, but it didn’t matter because one of the tall Chabad hanukkiot that one sees all over Israel was glowing brightly in the center of the square.
LOCAL HEBREW papers in Jerusalem last week ran reports of what they called the Taliban weddings. There is an ultra-Orthodox cult in which the women are usually dressed in black or charcoal gray high-necked, long-sleeved and long skirted dresses beneath a tightly wrapped shawl the same color as the dress. Some of these women marry off their children as soon as they reach puberty. In Israel, it is illegal to perform marriages if one or both or both of the parties are under the age of 18.
According to the reports, police, who had been searching for a 13-year-old girl whose father had reported her as missing, were able to prevent a rooftop wedding in Mea She’arim between the missing girl and a 16-year-old boy. They took the bride and her mother into custody, as well as three other potential brides aged 12 and 13, whose mothers had spirited them away. The three potential brides were soon released, but the bride and her mother appeared before the Jerusalem District Court, which ordered their release. The police appealed the verdict, but the appeal was denied. The bride was put in the care of social welfare services.
Ruthie Shapira, who heads the social welfare unit that deals with cases in haredi neighborhoods, was reported as saying that the girl – whom she personally met on what was supposed to be the wedding night, and whose progress she has followed – is now in a sheltered facility. The girl had been in a state of trauma, and it took much careful therapy and sensitivity to bring her out of it.
Police estimate that some 20 to 30 women belong to the cult and move around with their daughters to avoid detection by police or social welfare authorities. Not all such marriages are prevented in time, but when they do occur, the family later requires social welfare support. Social welfare authorities are currently caring for six such families in which the brides were aged 12 to 14.