Grapevine: A maestro for all seasons

Elli Jaffe performs for Jews and non-Jews alike.

ELLI JAFFE 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
■ CANTORIAL CONCERTS are becoming increasingly popular in Israel, particularly those conducted by the Jerusalem Great Synagogue’s choir master Elli Jaffe, who is also the voice teacher of some of Israel’s most promising cantors. These include chief cantor of the IDF Shai Abramson and American-born Yosef Schwartz, a 20- year-old with a wonderfully versatile voice. The two were among five cantors who sang to the accompaniment of the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in the first of a series of cantorial concerts at the Jerusalem Theater’s Henry Crown Auditorium.
Also on the program were Dov Heller, Israel Rand and Yaakov Moshe Salomon. Master of ceremonies was Shlomi Goldberg, who hosts the weekly Jewish heritage program on Saturday nights on Channel One. In the audience were Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz.
Jaffe is an extremely energetic conductor who is adored by both the orchestra and the audience. During the most popular songs he conducted both groups, spinning around on the podium to encourage the crowd to sing, especially during the grand finale, when all the cantors joined in for the spirited Emet Ma Nehedar Mareh Kohen from the Yom Kippur service. Yigal Tzelik, who composed the stirring melody, was in the audience and Jaffe acknowledged him to the ovation of the crowd.
Later people came drifting in to Jaffe’s home, where his wife Jacqueline had prepared a sumptuous supper. There were also two birthday celebrations, with the honorees serenaded by the cantors in both English and Hebrew. Hershkowitz was accompanied by his bodyguard, who was plied with food and drink by guests who did not think it proper to eat and drink in front of him without his partaking.
At the beginning of last week week, Jaffe took several cantors to Herzliya Pituah to perform for members of the International Women’s Club at the home of Deputy Head of Mission at the US Embassy Thomas Goldberger and his wife Eden. Jaffe also explained some of the traditions related to the High Holy Days. Dressed in his white kittel (robe) at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue on Rosh Hashana, Jaffe looked no less impressive than in his black tails.
■ THE FRENCH and British salons in which intellectuals would gather to discuss cultural and political topics are all but a thing of the past. Artist Michelle Katz wants to change that and go back to a day in which people discuss all manner of subjects without confining themselves to sound bytes, e-mails and SMS communications.
Up until a few months ago, Katz, who is the wife of singer/guitarist Yehudah Katz, the founder and lead singer of the Reva L’sheva band, used to conduct such salons out of a restaurant near her home in Tekoa. Realizing that Jerusalem was a better venue, Katz turned to longtime friend Raphael Marrache who owns an art gallery near the Jerusalem Theater. Marrache, who exhibits Katz’s paintings, was quite happy to open his home to her salon and held a launch a few days before Rosh Hashana. With the lights dimmed and candles lit, Yehudah Katz played his guitar and sang a medley of spiritual songs to usher in the New Year, with everyone joining in softly in the background.
Among those present was Rabbi Yitzhak Marmorstein, a devotee of former chief rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who read with eloquence and drama from Kook’s poetry. The salon meetings will be held on a monthly basis on a Thursday night and will vary in content. Some of the same people along with many others travelled to Tekoa recently to join Yehudah Katz in celebrating his birthday, which always turns into an exhilarating hassidic jam session
■ HAVING TO recite the Kaddish prayer in places where there are very few Jews poses numerous problems for the religiously observant. Yishai Klein, Asia director for Tel Aviv-headquartered Giza Capital, currently lives in Singapore and frequently travels to different parts of Asia on business. In Taiwan during the week preceding Rosh Hashana, Klein, whose father Shmuel died a few weeks ago in Jerusalem, was worried about whether it would be possible to get together the quorum required in order for him to recite Kaddish.
He got in touch with newly arrived Chabad emissary Rabbi Shlomi Tabib, who with his wife Rachel is setting up a Chabad House in the Taipei Jewish Center – and miracle of miracles, between the two of them they were able to find eight other men to join them for prayers. There were a couple of locals, an employee from the Israel Trade Office and a few tourists who had come to town to participate in the dedication ceremony of a Torah Scroll that had been brought to Taipei by Israeli businessman Avi Netanel. The ceremony included singing, marching and dancing through the city to the beat of drums that had also been brought from Israel.
Until the arrival of Tabib, the spiritual needs of the 150-member Taiwan Jewish community had been administered to by Rabbi Ephraim Einhorn, who at 93, is happy to relinquish responsibility to the young Israeli rabbi. For Klein, who was born on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the possibility to honor his father’s memory in accordance with Jewish tradition despite the difficult circumstances was the best birthday present he could hope for. One of the people who made up the quorum confessed that he had not been inside a synagogue since his Bar Mitzva, and said it was a good feeling to be able to contribute to Klein’s peace of mind.
■ JUST BEFORE completing their mission in Israel, Japanese Ambassador Haruhisa Takeuchi and his wife Nabuko hosted a farewell reception at their residence for friends and colleagues. The event was attended by some 300 people including MKs Gideon Ezra, Shai Hermesh and Yariv Levine, Force Commander UNDOF HQ Maj.-Gen. Natalie C. Ecarma II, Deputy Director General for Asia and the Pacific at Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs Ruth Kahanoff and many members of the diplomatic corps and the Japanese community in Israel. Takeuchi reiterated Japan’s deep appreciation of the support given to Japan by people around the world, including Israel, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of March 11. He also noted that in 2012 Japan and Israel will mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between them. Takeuchi referred to the younger generation of Israelis and Palestinians whom he had met at various times and voiced the hope that they might find a way to work together for a shared future. According to the old song, “sayonara” means goodbye. Takeuchi begged to differ, saying that “sayonara” is a long-standing promise to see you again. He promised to keep in touch with the many friends that he made in Israel.
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