Safed’s chief rabbi nixes coed musical performance in synagogue

The Safed Municipal Council strongly criticized Eliyahu’s decision, calling it “astonishing and outrageous” and incommensurate with the consensus in the city.

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August 29, 2016 00:17
1 minute read.
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

A musical performance scheduled to take place in Safed on Friday was canceled shortly before it was to begin after objections were raised by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.

As first reported by a local affiliate of Ynetnews, Eliyahu strongly objected to the performance since it included male and female musicians performing together and was to be staged in the Abuhav Synagogue.

The 16th-century synagogue is one of the most famous in the mystical city, and it houses a Torah scroll reputedly written by Rabbi Yitzhak Abuhav, a kabbalist who lived and taught in Toledo, Spain.

The performance, which was to have included four male musicians and two women, was a scheduled part of the city’s annual klezmer festival.

When Eliyahu found out about the event, he protested to festival organizers that an event with men and women playing music and singing together in the presence of an audience with men and women would not be respectful of the synagogue.

Eventually it was decided that only the four men of the ensemble would play.

Some members of the audience reportedly left the performance in protest after discovering that the female musicians had been prevented from playing.

Another performance of a different ensemble, in which men and women were also scheduled to play together, was moved from the Abuhav Synagogue to another site in the city to prevent further problems.

The Safed Municipal Council strongly criticized Eliyahu’s decision, calling it “astonishing and outrageous” and incommensurate with the consensus in the city.

It said, however, that it would no longer schedule performances in synagogues but would continue “to work toward embracing people, loving all and respecting all people for who they are.”

Eliyahu said his request to respect the synagogue and those who worship in it had been justified.

“We have respect for synagogues, and I expect everyone to respect synagogues, particularly the Abuhav Synagogue, which is ancient and holy,” he said. “It has been customary since ancient times to separate between men and women in synagogues, and whoever wants to have a mixed-gender performance should find an alternative venue. We will not insult the feelings of worshipers.”


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