THERE WERE quite a few congregants missing from Jerusalem's Hazvi Yisrael, Hanassi, Hagra and Yeshurun synagogues last Saturday, and it had nothing to do with the forecast for inclement weather, but rather the fact that Asher Schapiro, chairman of the capital's Great Synagogue, was celebrating his 75th birthday. In honor of the occasion, he and his wife Lenore hosted a mammoth kiddush in the synagogue's banquet hall.
The Schapiros live in the city's Wolfson complex, a high-rise, up-market urban village where most of their neighbors are also friends, so they too were invited and were missing from synagogues closer to home along with the couple's many friends in other parts of town.
The occasion coincided with the visit of world renowned cantor Yaakov Motzen, of Toronto's Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, who had accepted the invitation of the Great Synagogue's resident cantor, Naftali Herstik, as well as that of the board, and thrilled congregants both on Friday night and Saturday with his glorious voice and his clear enunciation. There were some amusing moments on Saturday, when Motzen, who likes the crowd to sing along with him, conducted the congregation while choirmaster Elli Jaffe conducted the choir. It was interesting because the two men were standing facing each other, albeit some 10 meters apart. Two nights later, Motzen, a Tel Aviv-born fifth-generation cantor, was one of three cantors participating in a cantorial concert conducted by Jaffe at the Jerusalem Theater.
Sharing the limelight with Schapira and Motzen was Raphael Amar, who had come from Europe to celebrate his bar mitzva. His parents Frederic and Vanessa Amar brought a huge contingent of relatives and friends from Geneva and Marseilles to join in the festivities, and their presence also contributed to the unusually high attendance. The Amar contingent had another reason for being in Israel. They brought with them an incomplete Torah scroll which was completed in a moving but dignified ceremony at the King David Hotel.
At the conclusion of the Saturday morning service, vice president Zali Jaffe, whose father, the late Maurice Jaffe, founded the synagogue 25 years ago, was profuse in expressing appreciation to Motzen, who waved him to a stop; and equally profuse in congratulating Schapiro and voicing the gratitude of the congregation for his efforts. "We cannot thank Asher enough for what he has done for this synagogue," he said. Schapiro, who travels frequently to the Far East on business, makes a point of being in Jerusalem for Shabbat. While most people of his age are already retired, he continues to face new challenges, and has had great joy in seeing the impact of the Great Synagogue on many different types of Jews from around the world.
Schapiro sends out a weekly newsletter that includes a request for prayers for sick people who are listed by their own names and the names of their mothers. It's a curious thing in Judaism that when you're called to the Torah or when you die you're the child of your father, but when you're sick, you're the child of your mother. For just over a year, one name has been constant: Ariel ben Vera Devora, better known as Ariel Sharon, who barring a miracle will sleep through his 79th birthday at the end of February just as he slept through his 78th.
WHILE CROSSING Rehov Aza in the Rehavia section of Jerusalem last month, Avraham Feder, rabbi emeritus of Moreshet Yisrael, the flagship Masorti congregation in Jerusalem, and an occasional Jerusalem Post contributor, collided with a motorcycle.
The rabbi said he was not jaywalking and didn't know what hit him.
The incident left him with a broken leg only weeks before his wedding to the lovely Tzipora Ne'eman, a Jerusalem-based realtor who like the bridegroom, hails from Canada.
It may have been sheer grit or simply the joy of the occasion, but to the delight of guests at the Bible Lands Museum, Feder last week walked down the aisle, unassisted, to wed his former congregant. Feder, the founding rabbi of Beth Tikva Synagogue in Toronto, is admired not only for his spellbinding and erudite sermons, but also for his cantorial skills, which he often uses to punctuate his sermons. His repertoire also includes a vast collection of popular Yiddish songs and Broadway melodies. Thus it was totally in character for him to serenade his bride with a rendition of "The Rest of My Life," delivered with great exuberance just before the main course.
Rabbi Yosef Green, who is also rabbi emeritus at Moreshet Yisrael, and Feder's scholarly predecessor, performed the marriage ceremony. Witnesses were Rabbi Adam Frank, Moreshet Yisrael's current spiritual leader, and Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, the spiritual leader of Congregation Moreshet Avraham and president of the Masorti movement's Rabbinic Assembly in Israel.
The newlyweds have moved into a newly decorated apartment in the capital's Abu Tor neighborhood, where they intend to offer reciprocal hospitality to the many friends who kept inviting one or the other to dinner for the purpose of introducing them to eligible singles of the opposite sex. As it happened, the bride and groom already knew each other and didn't need any introductions. Their union, in accordance with Jewish tradition was beshert. In other words, it was destined regardless of interference.