Grapevine: Cantorial jam session

THE HUGE number of private and public events during Hanukka may have been the reason there was not a full house at the incredible hazanut concert at Beit Knesset Beit Yisrael Congregation in Yemin Moshe on Saturday night. Even though the concert started somewhat later than the scheduled 8:30 p.m., the synagogue did not fill up entirely. But those who did come agreed that it was one of the best concerts of its kind that they had ever heard. Soloist and emcee Chaim Dovid Berson has a wonderful vocal range, not to mention a vast repertoire that includes the tunes of the Ger and the Chabad hassidim, the traditional Germanic tunes and, of course, Carlebach. The Sruli Hershtik Choir, which included soloists Itamar Cohen and Uriel Granot, who in many respects evokes Luciano Pavarotti, is not just a group of singers, but a group of people who obviously enjoy each other's company and who perform almost as if they were having a cantorial jam session. They put a lot of heart and soul into their singing, which was effortlessly transmitted to the audience. The multi-talented Hershtik is a conductor, singer and keyboard player. Although most of the members of the choir are haredi, they nonetheless encouraged everyone in the audience (women included) to sing along, which contributed considerably to the already wonderful ambience. Attendees, ranging from children to senior citizens, kept coming and going throughout in a very heimish manner. The choir was grouped at the entrance to the men's section, but that didn't stop people from pushing past, which didn't seem to bother anyone. One woman who came late brought a tambourine and enthusiastically played it within moments of finding a seat. It was a delightful and fun evening, and those who didn't come truly missed out. TRADITIONALLY, Jerusalem's historic King David Hotel is the hotel of choice for visiting royalty, heads of state, political leaders and diplomats, although in recent years it has been getting increasing competition from the Inbal, David's Citadel, Mount Zion and Sheraton Plaza hotels. However no visit to Jerusalem is complete without at least looking at the King David from the outside if not at its impressive interior. The flagship of the Dan chain, which has an e-Dan Club entitling members to a long list of perks in all the Dan hotels, the King David organizes specialty weekends for e-Dan members. This week's specialty weekend, December 13-15, includes a culinary journey to the Orient, and opened with a reception hosted by Japan's ambassador to Israel, Yoshinori Katori, and his wife, Etsuko, followed by a tree-planting ceremony during which the hotel received a cherry tree courtesy of the Japanese Botanical Gardens. Dinner was prepared by the ambassador's personal chef, Satoshi Tamaoki, together with the hotel's executive chef, Michel Nabat. Various lectures related to Japan will take place over the weekend including one by Hebrew University professor Ben-Ami Shiloni, who is an expert on many facets of Japan. There will also be workshop sessions on origami, martial arts andcalligraphy.