Grapevine: Cantering ahead

At age 10, Richard Shavei Zion began singing in synagogue choirs in his native Cape Town.

Matisyahu 521 (photo credit: Flash 90, Abir Sultan)
Matisyahu 521
(photo credit: Flash 90, Abir Sultan)
■ ALTHOUGH HE is an accountant by profession and manages a property development and management company, South African-born Richard Shavei Zion has devoted the major part of his life to music.
At age 10, he began singing in synagogue choirs in his native Cape Town, and he’s been conducting choirs since he was 18. He’s been conducting High Holy Day services in South Africa, Israel, the US and Canada for some 30 years, but is probably best known in Israel as the director of the Ramatayim choir, which had its beginnings in 1995 when four music enthusiasts got together in Ramot to sing some of the synagogue melodies they had heard growing up.
Over time, the group multiplied ten-fold and performs all over Israel, and has also performed in the United Kingdom. Over the past year or two, Shavei Zion has also turned his attention to younger singers and in addition to his work with Ramatayim, also directs Joya! Vocal Ensemble, a mixed modern Orthodox male-and-female group of singers in their 20s.
To put it mildly, the pace for Shavei Zion has become hectic – but he loves every minute of it. Coming up on the immediate horizon is a Ramatayim concert in aid of the Jerusalem-based Malki Foundation, established in memory of Malki Roth, who was murdered by terrorists in the bombing of the Sbarro pizza parlor in 2001. The Malki Foundation enables at-home care for children with special needs.
The concert at the Gerard Behar Center on Sunday, March 25, will be multifaceted and will feature Jerusalem’s own Lt.-Col. Shai Abramson, chief cantor of the IDF, who from an early age was a member of the Great Synagogue choir, and is in high demand as a soloist at many civilian events.
Other soloists on the program include the Israel Opera’s Guy Mannheim and rising hassidic star Ohad Moskowitz.
The program will include Abramson’s rendition of “Avinu Shebashamayim,” which has gone viral on YouTube, Mannheim singing “Avinu Malkeinu,” made famous in non-synagogue circles by Barbra Streisand, and Moskowitz’s “Bo’i Kalla,” an adaption of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Even before that, on Tuesday, March 20, Joya!, which has chalked up an appearance on the same bill as Shlomo Gronich, will perform the ensemble’s favorite songs as well as a new repertoire with guest artists at the Leo Model Theater on Bezalel Street.
The ensemble’s repertoire ranges from Beatles to Bach. Proceeds from this concert will go towards Shachen Tov – the Good Neighbor Foundation, a volunteer group organized by medical students at Ben-Gurion University, which provides onetime activities for people with various disabilities and special needs in and around Beersheba.
■ THE INTERFAITH Center for Sustainable Development together with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and a number of sponsors that include the Pratt Foundation, Trust, The Green Environment Fund, The Julia Burke Foundation, Jewish Nature and Rabbis for Human Rights have organized an Interfaith Climate and Energy Conference that serves as a common denominator for Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths.
The trilingual event that offers simultaneous translations in English, Hebrew and Arabic will be held at the Konrad Adenauer Convention Center in Mishkenot Sha’ananim on Monday, March 19.
Among the participants will be Dr. Elias Chacour, archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church who serves as archbishop for the whole of the whole of the Galilee; Sheikh Muhammad Amara, imam at the Interior Ministry and of the town of Zalafa, and Rabbi Ronen Lubitch, rabbi of Nir Etzion and lecturer at Sha’anan Religious Teachers’ College and the Hebrew University. Among the highlights of the conference will be video clips of world religious leaders stating their perspectives on climate change and the environment.
■ AGE HAS never been a barrier for Yehoshua Matza. He was never too young or too old. As a teenager, Matza was a member of the Stern Group. More recently, at age 80, he became president of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center after having served for almost a decade as president and CEO of Israel Bonds.
A 12th-generation Jerusalemite whose family came to the Holy Land from Greece, Matza ran for election for the Jerusalem City Council in 1965 as the representative of Herut prior to its merging with Likud. In 1969 he became deputy mayor, and in 1978 he was the Likud candidate in the mayoral elections, but lost to Teddy Kollek.
After almost two decades on the city council, Matza ran for the Knesset on the Likud ticket and remained there for 18 years. He was appointed health minister in the first Netanyahu-led government.
Shocked when former prime minister Ehud Barak offered the most liberal concessions regarding Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat, Matza, who was then chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, initiated the bill amending the Jerusalem Law, which now stipulates that no decisions to change the status of Jerusalem and its boundaries can be made without an absolute majority vote in the Knesset, namely at least 61 in favor.
Matza’s predecessor as Israel Bonds president was fellow Likudnik Gideon Patt, who was also born in Jerusalem, but now lives in Herzliya Pituah. Patt, 79, held several ministerial positions, and following his five-year stint at Israel Bonds in New York, became president of the Council for a Beautiful Israel, succeeding founding president Aura Herzog. The Jerusalem connection with Israel Bonds remains intact. Jerusalem is the permanent home of current Israel Bonds president Izzy Tapoohi, who was appointed toward the end of last year.
■ PEOPLE WHO saw Mayor Nir Barkat tour the Old City on Purim probably didn’t recognize the young man with him in his old/new guise. Singer Matisyahu, a.k.a. Matthew Paul Miller, who is making a new video clip about the holy city, has removed his beard and is now clean shaven. Only people who knew him before he grew his beard, or who have followed him on Facebook and Twitter, might recognize him today.
He posted a picture of his non-hirsute self on Twitter last December, with a message that he is reclaiming himself. Now 32, Matisyahu found religion in his late teens, joined Chabad and opted to use his Hebrew name (with deliberate Ashkenazi pronunciation) for professional as well as religious purposes. He combined traditional Jewish music with reggae, hip-hop and hard rock. With the removal of his beard, he also changed his style of music to some extent. Matisyahu, who is planning a world tour, told Barkat that he intends to start it in Jerusalem.