Meet Montagu

THERE’S A lot of talk about accessibility, but not enough is done to ensure that people confined to wheelchairs can access buildings.

Judy Montagu (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Judy Montagu
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
FANS OF Judy Montagu, a former long-time editor and columnist at The Jerusalem Post, can meet her in person on Sunday, January 20 at 7:45 p.m. at Beit Avi Chai, 44 King George Street, during her talk to the Israel branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England. Montagu is the daughter of the late Cantor Charles Lowy, a Holocaust survivor about whom she has some thought-provoking anecdotes. Her talk, “Chazanut: Prayer or Performance?” is largely dedicated to her father, who was born in the early 20th century in Bratislava when it was still known as Pressburg. On his father’s side, he was of Hungarian descent and on his mother’s side of Dutch descent. Hungarian is among the world’s more difficult languages, but Montagu is fluent in it.
After a variety of jobs that had nothing to do with music, Lowy went to Munich in 1937 to take up a position as cantor and to study music and voice production. He fled Munich after Kristallnacht and headed for Hungary, where he again had cantorial positions, the last being as assistant chief cantor at the famed Dohany Street synagogue.
During the German occupation of Hungary, Lowy’s wife Kati and their newborn son were deported to Auschwitz and murdered. He was liberated by the Red Army in 1945.
In 1947, he was given another cantorial appointment in Scotland and went there with his second wife, Magda. After 11 years in Glasgow, he went to London and for 28 years served as Cantor of the Hampstead Synagogue.
He died in July 1998, but his voice lives on in recordings.
THERE’S A lot of talk about accessibility, but not enough is done to ensure that people confined to wheelchairs can access buildings. A notable exception is the Beit Shmuel synagogue in the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem, where Lavi Furniture Industries has designed synagogue furniture for the physically disabled. In some synagogues, the pews are so close together, that it is impossible for an able-bodied person to pass someone who is seated. Even when that person stands up to make way, it is difficult to get past. Imagine how much more difficult it is for someone in a wheelchair or with a walker. This is why paraplegics sometimes block the aisles. They have no option if they want to join the congregation.
Lavi Furniture Industries designed and manufactured synagogue furniture that, according to CEO Micha Oberman, will enable people in wheelchairs and those with other physical disabilities to have easy access to and exits from the specially fitted seats. They will also have access to the ark, and during Sukkot to a balcony on which the sukkah will be built. The value of the project is NIS 400,000, he said.
The synagogue is completely geared to the needs of the patient population at Herzog Medical Center. The project includes a dedicated audio system for the benefit of the hearing impaired.
AFTER 15 years of wrangling and debates between the Jerusalem Municipality and a succession of owners of the Jerusalem Pearl hotel, adjacent to the Old City, it looks if the once-glamorous structure, which through neglect over the years has become a city eyesore, is about to be demolished, with a new luxury hotel – plus several housing units – going up in its stead. That’s what was published this week in The Marker, in an article that was similar to stories on the subject published half a year ago. The essential difference between then and now is the size of the overall project.
What was holding up the works, from the perspective of the current owners, was a particular prohibition that would not allow them to build higher than the walls of the Old City, but that problem has been resolved; part of the building will be built below ground level.
That was also the case with the original building, so it seems strange that it took so long for an agreement to be reached between the owners, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Commission, whose senior city planner Shira Talmi Babay told The Marker that the final figure for the new structure is 150 guest rooms plus 20 housing units and a commercial area. Because of its location, she sees the new hotel as having great tourist potential.
Meanwhile, another luxury hotel, the Intercontinental, is going up in King George Street, not far from the Leonardo Plaza. There is a glut of boutique hotels, mostly in converted premises throughout downtown Jerusalem, but there are also large, luxury hotels for the kind of tourist clientele that likes expansive public areas. The public areas in most boutique hotels are very small and sometimes virtually non-existent, other than the space between the reception desk and the elevator.