Grapevine: Sweet sounds

Hatzavi Yisrael synagogue was privileged to hear the voice of the Cantor Naftali Herstik last Shabbat.

Synagogue prayers (photo credit: Reuters)
Synagogue prayers
(photo credit: Reuters)
■ CONGREGANTS AT Hatzvi Yisrael synagogue were pleasantly surprised last Shabbat to discover that the morning service was being led by Cantor Naftali Herstik, who for many years was the chief cantor at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. Hatzvi Yisrael does not have a permanent cantor, and prayers are led by members of the congregation or by guests.
Some of those who lead the service from time to time have very pleasant voices, but none have Herstik’s background or vocal range.
But even beyond his singing is his human compassion. When he mounted the rostrum to take the Torah scroll out of the ark, he did not immediately walk down the aisle with it, as is the custom, but went to the far end of the dais and leaned forward so that a physically challenged congregant who is unable to walk could kiss the Torah. The gesture did not go unnoticed and when Herstik stepped down from the bima at the start of the Torah reading, the many handshakes and slaps on the back that he received were as much in recognition of his consideration for a fellow human being as they were for his fine singing.
■ WHILE THE financially strapped Bikur Cholim Hospital continues to fight for its survival, two other major medical centers in Jerusalem are expanding. Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem is all set to officially dedicate its impressive $363-million Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower in October when Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, holds its national convention in Jerusalem, and Shaare Zedek Medical Center is in the process of completing a somewhat more modest building, the cost of which is NIS 300 million.
The Shaare Zedek facility, which is due to open next year, will concentrate all of Shaare Zedek’s pediatric departments in one building under the one roof so that the new tower will provide care for children from neonatal preemies to adolescents and treating every known disease and disorder to which children are subjected.
Even though the Shaare Zedek project is not as grandiose as that of Hadassah, the excitement felt by Shaare Zedek’s director-general, Prof. Jonathan Halevy, is no less than that of his Hadassah counterpart, Prof. Ehud Kokia or Kokia’s predecessor Prof. Shlomo Mor- Yosef, who was in charge when the project was initiated and was present for a great part of its development. Mor-Yosef is currently director-general of the National Insurance Institute.
As for Bikur Cholim – there is a glut of high-rise apartment blocks completed or in an advanced stage of construction in the very heart of the city and its immediate surroundings. Those apartments located closest to haredi neighborhoods will go like hot cakes to local haredi families, which increases the importance of maintaining Bikur Cholim, which straddles the line between the religious and secular parts of the inner city.
■ BACK TO Hadassah. Among the visitors at Hadassah Ein Kerem last week was Rasheda Ali, daughter of legendary World Heavyweight Champion and Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay.
The recipient of many awards, Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984 and his condition progressively deteriorated over the years, though he continued to be a beloved public figure and philanthropist across America and in other parts of the world. He has raised tens of millions of dollars for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center as well as many millions for campaigns to relieve hunger and poverty and to promote education, tolerance and understanding around the globe.
Ali’s daughter, Rasheda, was in Israel last week, and together with Chaim Lebovitz, president, and Adrian Harel, CEO, of BrainStorm, met with neurologist Prof. Dimitrios Karussis, who heads Hadassah’s multidisciplinary Multiple Sclerosis Center on innovative treatments for brain degenerative diseases, to find out if there was anything that could be done to help her father.
Rasheda is a member of BrainStorm’s advisory board and a global advocate for promoting research in this field. Muhammad Ali has also been to Jerusalem, but that was some 20 years ago. Aside from the interest in Hadassah, Muhammad Ali’s family has Jewish connections.
Another daughter, Khalia, is married to Spencer Wertheimer, who happens to be Jewish. Their son, Jacob, identifies as a Jew and wanted to have a bar mitzva. This past April, Jacob was called to the Torah and read his bar mitzva portion at Philadelphia’s Rodeph Shalom Synagogue – and yes, grandpa Muhammad Ali was there to join in the celebration. •