Grapevine: The capital sings for the Singing Rabbi

October 25, 2007 12:31
4 minute read.
Grapevine: The capital sings for the Singing Rabbi

grapes 88. (photo credit: )


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  • THE LATE Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, universally known as the Singing Rabbi, had so many close friends and acquaintances that anyone would be hard-pressed to make the claim that he or she was his closest friend. Someone who definitely does qualify as one of his closest friends is Jerusalemite Emuna Witt, whose many children he cradled, whose home he always visited, sang and taught in when he was in the Holy City and whom he entrusted with committing some of his deepest thoughts to print. The petite and gentle Witt, who, like her friend Reb Shlomo, always has a good word and a warm embrace for everyone, has for years been putting out anthologies under the title Kol Chevra. Most of the submissions are reminiscences by people who became more religiously observant, not to mention tolerant of others, as a result of their connection with Carlebach, who was non-judgmental, accepting of everyone and always able to find the good in them. The annual Carlebach memorial concert at Binyenei Ha'uma, held in conjunction with the anniversary of his death, attracts a huge crowd. Witt knocked herself out to produce another edition of Kol Chevra for the concert taking place this Saturday night, October 27, to mark the 13th anniversary of Carlebach's passing. The new volume is also dedicated to Rabbi David Zeller, one of Carlebach's keenest followers and perpetuators of his music and teachings. Zeller, who was one of the founders of Yakar, passed away earlier this year. On Sunday at 2:30 p.m., there will be a memorial service at Carlebach's grave on Har Hamenuhot, and in the evening there will be a memorial discussion and kumzitz at Yakar. Witt and/or her children will be at all the Carlebach memorial events and will have copies of Kol Chevra on hand. Anyone interested in learning more about Carlebach or in obtaining a copy of Kol Chevra should visit or contact Witt at
  • CAN ONE still be surprised at age 104? Bertha Porush was. On her birthday, her daughter, World Emunah President Naomi Leibler and son-in-law Isi Leibler were in Hong Kong en route from Australia where they had attended a grandson's bar mitzva. Their sons Gary and Jonathan were also making their way home from Australia, but their daughter Tamara Grynberg had returned to Israel the previous day, and was the main family representative, along with nephew Lionel Link and his wife Adele, who came to wish Porush happy birthday. As in previous years, there were floral tributes plus phone calls and messages from family and friends in Australia, but the surprise, in the absence abroad of Naomi Leibler, was the birthday party. Looking as serene and beautiful as always, with an almost wrinkle-free complexion, Porush shared the secret of her youthful skin. First thing in the morning wash with very hot water, then with cold water. For most of those present, it was a little late to start.
  • THE ANTI-missionary zeal of city council member Mina Fenton knows no bounds. Prior to last weekend's Houses From Within event in which many Jerusalem homes were opened to the general public, Fenton sent an e-mail to Mayor Uri Lupolianski, fellow council members and City Hall employees, claiming that two of the sites in the project were venues for missionary activity. As usual, Fenton singled out the International Christian Embassy. Architect Alon Bin-Nun, who was closely involved with the planning of the project, was interviewed on Israel Radio and asked if the house on Rehov Cremieux (which is causing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert such a headache) had been included. "We thought about it," said Bin-Nun, "but we dropped the idea."
  • THE 55th anniversary of the passing of Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, more or less coincides with the 90th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Weizmann died on November 9, 1952 at age 77, and the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which in a sense was the green light for the establishment of the State of Israel, is on November 2. The World Zionist Organization, of which Weizmann was twice a long-term president, has seen fit to combine the two anniversaries - and for good reason. During the period in which Weizmann was a chemistry professor at the University of Manchester, Arthur Balfour was a Conservative member of Parliament with a seat in Manchester. Weizmann and Balfour met during one of Balfour's electoral campaigns and developed a friendship. Balfour was in favor of establishing a Jewish state in Uganda, but Weizmann persuaded him that Palestine, the spiritual homeland of the Jewish people, was a more appropriate place for a modern Jewish state. The joint commemoration, on Wednesday, October 31, will be held where else but in the Chaim Weizmann Hall of the Jewish Agency building on King George Avenue with the participation of WZO and Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski, Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and Minister-without-Portfolio Ruhama Avraham, along with other dignitaries. Keynote speaker will be Prof. Shlomo Avineri of the Hebrew University. The Weizmann family will be represented by Rachel Weizmann-Schneersohn. WHILE MUSING about history, it may very well be rewritten by Dr. Arie Morgenstern, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center. His book Hastening Redemption, which was published last year by Oxford University Press, has pulled the historic carpet out from under the feet of the pioneers of the First Aliya. Contrary to popular belief, Morgenstern's research indicates that the first large waves of immigration to Israel did not begin in 1881 as is commonly believed, nor were they motivated by pre-Herzlian Zionist aspirations or fear of pogroms. Instead, he writes that the First Aliya consisted of devout disciples of Rabbi Elijah Ben Solomon Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna, who came to Israel early in the 19th century because they believed that 1840 was the year of messianic redemption.

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