Jerusalem – their chief joy

A Singapore marriage in the capital, Yung Yiddish klezmer concert proves a hot success, Nigeria marks 50 years of independence and Army Radio brings back its stars for 60th birthday.

THE SON and daughter of two of the best known Jewish families in Singapore decided that they wanted to get married in Jerusalem. If it had been a whim of just the bride or the groom, the wedding plans might have gone differently. But they both wanted to be married in the city, so no one raised any objections.
“If you look at the invitation,” said Michelle Sassoon, the mother of the bride, “you’ll see the most prominent word is Jerusalem.”
The pre-wedding henna ceremony for Claire Sassoon, daughter of Michelle and Victor Sassoon, and Ben Benjamin, son of Mavis and Frank Benjamin, was also held in Jerusalem at Kohinoor, the kosher Indian restaurant inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel that belongs to Reena and Vinod Pushkarna. The henna ceremony and all it entails was their gift to the Sassoon family for the warm friendship that they accorded to the Pushkarnas’ daughter Sarina when she went to live in Singapore.
“We’re all of Iraqi background via India, and we like to do things for each other,” said Reena, explaining the generosity of her gift. Sarina who now works in public relations and is the assistant manager for global media at the Marina Bay Sands resort and casino complex which is currently the jewel in the crown of Sheldon Adelson’s business ventures, was back here with her husband Raj Sundarson, not only to visit her parents and her brother Kunal, but to attend the wedding. They were among the 100 plus Singaporeans, who were part of 280 member contingent of people who came from all over the world.
The wedding ceremony, at which Singapore’s Rabbi Mordechai Abergel officiated, took place on Sunday at the Western Wall, where four generations of the bride’s family, including her sisters, her mother, her grandmother and her greatgrandmother, stood under the bridal canopy, a large tallit mounted on four olive trees.
There were also eight bridesmaids and a page boy who carried the ring. All the female guests were given pale peach shawls and the men were given red kippot. The celebrations were held at the David Citadel Hotel,.
■ IT’S SOMETIMES difficult to separate a person from the various positions that he or she may hold. Case in point is Leonid Nevzlin, who chairs the International Board of Governors of the Diaspora Museum. Nevzlin, together with his partners Vladimor Dubov and Mikhail Brudno, established the Nadav Foundation of which the president is his daughter Irina Nevzlin Kogan.
When the Nadav Foundation chose to give to give the Jewish Peoplehood award to the satirical video skit “We Con the World” produced by the Latma team headed by Jerusalem Post senior contributing editor Caroline Glick, there was an outcry in some left-wing quarters, although others saw nothing in the citation that should arouse wrath. It reads: “A remarkable video, produced by the creative team of Latma, which made many Jews feel proud in a time of conflict and tension for our people. The personal initiative, sincere effort and brilliant use of modern media, reaching a mass audience, gave rise to the pluralistic dialogue among Jews the world over.”
While there was broad national and Diaspora Jewry consensus about the cleverness and wit of the item in its exposure of some peace activists as anything but, several left-wing groups and individuals attacked Nevzlin and Nadav for using the meeting of the museum’s International Board of Governors as a vehicle for the award presentation. Because Glick is known for her right-wing views, some of those who came out with their guns blazing, accusing her and Latma of racism, apparently ignored the fact that there were armed and violent people on the Mavi Marmara which had been touted as a peace ship.
■ “OY VEY!” exclaimed Mendy Cahan, founder and director of Yung Yiddish. Nothing tragic had occurred. On the contrary, the soon-to-begin klezmer concert interspersed with Yiddish songs was just too successful, and all the seats were taken well in advance of starting time. People who came even 10 minutes early were hard-pressed to find a seat, but most did not go away. They crowded at the back of the room and in the doorway.
Cahan, a Belgian-born lapsed hassid who still remembers everything he learned in his youth, recited the Havdala prayer, putting far more drama into it than is usually experienced. And then the concert started, led by klezmer luminary Avraham Burstein, still dressed in his Sabbath finery, a pale gold brocade kapota.
The audience ranged from haredi to secular, and although most members were way past middle age, there was a good representation of people under 30. The heat and the close proximity of so many bodies caused some people to leave early. Cahan apologized, saying that Yung Yiddish was looking for a donor to put in air conditioning. The truth is that the Jerusalem premises have long been far too small to accommodate the large number of people who show up, but if Cahan moved to something larger and more modern, he would lose the marvelous shtetl ambience that he has created.
He does have larger premises and more facilities in the Tel Aviv branch, located at the Central Bus Terminal, but the atmosphere is quite different. The multilingual Cahan, who is both emcee and performer, was switching from Yiddish to English to Hebrew and back again when he spoke, but all the songs he sang were in Yiddish and the audience lapped up his performance.
■ IT’S PAR for the course that performers such as Yehuda Katz, Chaim Dovid and Benzion Solomon and his sons, who performed frequently with Shlomo Carlebach here and abroad, appear on the playbill for the annual Carlebach memorial concerts.
But each year there are a few additional names of singers who have been caught up in the ever broader sweep of Carlebach melodies. Among more than a dozen singers scheduled to sing at this year’s Carlebach memorial concert, at the Jerusalem International Conference Center on October 30, is Golan Azulai who plays Carlebach in the Yiddishpiel Production Carlebach Lives. Azulai will be the emcee at the “It’s all about love” memorial concert for Carlebach to mark the 16th anniversary of his death.
Known as The Singing Rabbi, Carlebach, through his melodies and his nonjudgmental, unconditional love for humanity, brought thousands of young Jews back from the brink of assimilation to some form of Jewish identity – and in a large number of cases to Orthodoxy.
In addition to singing, he told countless Jewish stories, all of them with a positive message designed to give listeners a good feeling. He was not a fire and brimstone rabbi; he believed that love was a far more powerful and positive emotion than fear. Today, 16 years after his passing from a heart attack on a plane bound for Canada, his influence is even stronger than when he was alive, and his compositions are sung in synagogues throughout the world.
■ TWO ISRAELI cantors who now live in the US and two immigrant cantors, one from London and the other from Johannesburg, delighted an Emunah Jerusalem audience at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center last Sunday night. Simon Cohen, Ya’acov Motzen, Azi Schwartz and Colin Schahat with the Kol Rina choir conducted by Roi Azulai, whose body language is that of a graceful ballet dancer, had the audience roaring with delight. Tel Aviv-born Motzen is a fifth-generation cantor who, while serving in the IDF, performed for soldiers wounded in the Yom Kippur War. He later spent 18 years as a cantor in Montreal, after which he moved to Toronto to become cantor of the Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, the largest Orthodox congregation there.
He is currently the cantor at The Shul in Bel Harbor, Florida. His repertoire includes an extensive Carlebach medley which he presented in Poland this past June at the annual Krakow Jewish Festival.
Carlebach was one of the early performers at the Krakow festival, and Motzen performed a tribute concert in his memory, singing from the outer balcony of the Isak Synagogue to an enormous crowd that blocked the street on three sides. Carlebach’s daughter Neshama, an accomplished singer in her own right, made her Krakow debut in January 2009, but has yet to sing at the festival.
Schwartz, who is the cantor at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, was a soloist with the IDF Rabbinical Troupe and served as cantor at Heichal Meir Synagogue in Tel Aviv and assistant cantor at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue before going to America. Both he and Motzen frequently return as guest cantors and concert performers.
All four cantors have performed with major orchestras around the world. They have also made several CDs in which they sing solo and with other cantors.
There was also a brief but much appreciated appearance by Schahat’s son Micha, a boy soprano.
Accompanists were the multitalented pianist, composer and arranger Raymond Goldstein and violinist Jenny Huenigen, concert master with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Goldstein was responsible for the arrangement of several of the melodies. The very personable Cohen was also the emcee, darting from one end of the stage to the other in his separate roles. He was also responsible for arranging the event, and received much deserved kudos from Jerusalem Emunah chair Renee Becker and director Racheli Brooks.
■ ONE WOULD imagine that 50th anniversary celebrations of a country’s independence would be hosted by the ambassador, but the Federal Republic of Nigeria hasn’t had an ambassador for several months since the departure of Dada Olissa, who is unlikely to be replaced until after the Nigerian elections which are due in January.
Thus it fell to Charge d’Affaires Friday Ogacheko Okai to host the reception – but he had been summoned home due to some crisis situation, and thus the next in line as host at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv was Folorunso Olukayode, the embassy’s minister for political affairs. Minister without Portfolio Yossi Peled represented the government.
Olukayode made the point that this is a very special place for Nigerian pilgrims, who each year come here in the thousands, and Peled noted that Nigeria, like Israel, wages a constant battle against terrorism. Curiously, the background talking stopped when Nigerian dancers, dressed in the national colors of green and white, took to the stage.
As yet, the identity of the next Nigerian ambassador is unknown, but her many friends here are hoping the it will be Janet Olissa, the wife of the former ambassador, who has been a diplomat in her own right for almost 18 years, and is currently chief foreign affairs officer at the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During her husband’s term here, she made it known that she would love to come back.
■ EUROPEAN UNION Ambassador Andrew Standley and his wife Judith will this evening host a Beduin weaving and arts evening at their residence in Herzliya. The event will include an example of the way Beduin receive guests, a demonstration of the Beduin weaving process and a presentation of the Lakiya Negev weaving project coupled with an opportunity to purchase Lakiya’s products.
Established in 1991 in the village of Lakiya as an income-generating and empowerment project for Beduin women, the project enables them to preserve their traditions while learning and benefitting from new business skills.
ARMY RADIO this week celebrated its 60th anniversary by bringing back some of the people who had done their army service at the station. Some of country’s bestknown journalists launched their careers as 18-year-old reporters there. Some of the former staffers, such as MK Shelly Yacimovich, came back on Sunday to host some of the station’s programs.
She took over from Rafi Barka’i to present What’s Burning. Ironically, it was because Yacimovich had taken over his show on Israel Radio – long before she entered politics – that Barka’i switched gears and went to work as a civilian anchor at Army Radio.
One of the more veteran broadcasters who returned was Rivka Michaeli who did her compulsory army service from 1956 to 1958.
Other familiar names who started out in Army Radio include Gideon Levy, Dori Ben-Ze’ev, Rafi Ginat, Dan Kaner, Geula Even, Erez Tal, Ivri Gilad, Merav Michaeli, Rafi Reshef, Guy Pines and Tal Berman.
■ HIS CLOSE associates are predicting a political comeback for Eli Moyal, the charismatic former mayor of Sderot, who for the past four years has been under police investigation on suspicion of breach of trust and accepting bribes. Last week, Moyal was sitting in his car on the Ayalon Freeway, trapped in a traffic jam, when he received a telephone call from Southern District prosecutor Mumi Lemberger informing him that his case had been closed.
Whether he’ll go back into local politics or aim for a seat in the Knesset remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely that he’ll slip back into anonymity.
■ TODAY THE National Council of Young Israel and the International Young Israel Movement-Israel Region will, for the 187th time, donate a Torah scroll to the IDF.
The project, which has been in operation for 12 years, is spearheaded by NCYI vice president Rabbi Pesach Lerner and Rabbi Yedidya Atlas of the IDF Chaplaincy Corps.
The project has been renamed in memory of recently deceased Ruby Davidman, a tireless volunteer for numerous causes here, especially those related to members of the IDF. He and his wife Phyllis came from the US well over 30 years ago. The 187th Torah Scroll will be placed in the synagogue of the main IDF base in Gush Etzion region in a ceremony that will be attended by members of the Davidman family.
All the Torah scrolls that are part of the project have been brought to Israel from synagogues throughout North America. Usually they are worn or damaged and donors are found to repair them and rededicate them in memory of loved ones. The scroll in today’s ceremony will be rededicated by Joe and Rozanne Polansky (formerly of North Bellmore, NY, now Jerusalem) and Gershon and Braina Tryfus (North Bellmore, NY).
■ STATE DINNERS hosted by President Shimon Peres often end before the coffee is served, because the guest of honor usually gets up to leave after two hours or even less. Not so Finnish President Tarja Halonen, who has known Peres for many years and is extremely well disposed toward him and Israel. Another interesting factor about this dinner was the presence at the head table of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who seldom attends state dinners at Beit Hanassi. Ambassador to Finland Avi Granot was also seated at the presidential table.