Selichot Choral service

Tonight in almost all Synagogues over the world we prepare for the coming days of awe. A service which reminds principally of the services of the High Holydays. In Belsize a very musical one.
Rehearsing already with my Choirmaster and the Synagogue’s Musical Director Dr. Benjamin Wolf and organist Maestro Mike Cayton, both very instrumental in my learning the vast repertoire Belsize Square Synagogue is known for. Mostly Louis Lewandowski. Last year I asked Ben to write for us the first prayer Ashrei, a small sample of the service is in this link :

Wishing all my readers a year of sweet blessings, independently of your faith.


The New Synagogue on Oranienburgerstrasse- A unique testimony to and symbol of German Judaism

The actual sanctuary as before it’s destruction in WWII and the place where we stood on during the celebration and memorial services , this how it looked like in all its splendor.

berlin_neue_synagoge_innenansicht_busbWhat is left of it, is the courtyard we stood during the commemoration as pictured in my previous post and in this thumbnail








A celebration of 150 years since its inauguration.mittenmang-tolerant-300x300

The largest Synagogue in Germany and house where then composer Louis Lewandowski was its Musical Director composed his Synagogue music, for Cantor, choir and organ, and  which I use at Belsize Square Synagogue every service. Invited were all our choirs by the Lewandowski festival organisers and its sister Synagogue in Berlin in Pestalozzistrasse, we also were invited to join the Synagogue Ensemble and Cantor Sheffer for Shabbat services.

Sunday  a day of concert and remembrance in what the previous Synagogue was. Open to the public as the text in the door states “Open ye the gates”

The front of the building is the Centrum Judaicum, linked by pressing the picture.


It makes exhibitions, is in charge of the building, archives and organises events, to show and preserve what it was in all it’s glory, the bit we tried to bring back with L. Lewandowski’s melodies on Sunday, and with tears as we sung Ma Tovu Ohaleja Yaakob, “How beautiful are thy tents oh Jacob”, words from our liturgy,  probably also the most popular and famous of  Lewandowski’s settings used in all the Ashkenazi world with which we start our services in the mornings and evenings. As in the words of the President of the Jewish Community of Berlin.

” Hopefully this building one day to be rebuilt to reunite all peoples”, and as for Jerusalem’s Temple, we pray for every day B”H, May it be G-d’s will.


Louis Lewandowski Part I.

Louis Lewandowski (1821 – 1894) transformed Jewish worship into a musical experience.

That is what we experienced today Sunday 11th of  September, in the actual place the sanctuary stood, other big edifices have been destroyed this day, but nobody mentioned it on our commemoration, I later was reminded on a special report on One World Trade Center in CBS, what is important here is the common message of perseverance and continuity.

Back to my title, so much more to say and especially now preparing to give a lecture at the European Cantors Association in November in Prague on the composer. I was very impressed by the introduction given by the Director of  the Centrum Judaicum, the Foundation of the New Synagogue, Dr. Hermann Simon, in his introduction to the concert by  a brief summary of Lewandowski’s life, I will get a copy of his book on the composer, he promised me which certainly will help me to brush up my presentation.


The German postal celebration-postservice commemorated with this publication for the second time, as pictured here.


The Cantors, directors, organist and Choirs in the courtyard

Cantor Sheffer and the Choirs under Dr Benjamin Wolf’s direction


Choirs under direction of Regina Yantian


The Youth Choirs of  Berlin and Belsize Square in  the first rows Maestro Cayton at the organ


A thought on the controversy of how to go to the beach

I was very surprised by the statement a mayor in France made in that topless women is more French than the muslim burkini attire.

playa barcelona.jpg

I just came back from my holidays and it is exactly this that I saw.

I could not understand how muslim men and women go to beaches were others sunbath topless?

And what does the whole debate have to do with a society that proclaims liberty and equality and stands for fraternity? only more division and worries by statements as the mayor’s.
The challenge is that we should be all able to live together, a lesson we, Jews have had to learn in our long exile, but which today with a vibrant Israel with beaches for everyone we are proud of, others should learn from us.


The Synagogue of St Poelten, Austria

At a half an hour by train west from Vienna is the capital of Lower Austria, the city of Sankt Poelten and its vicinities, Boehemkirchen, Neulengbach and Eichgraben where my paternal family comes from and great grandparents and siblings of my grandparents are buried.

My great grandfather used to commute to Vienna to conduct his business but attended St Poelten Synagogue, Built 1913.



Between the 26th and 29th of June 2016 the Institute of Jewish history in Austria based in St Poelten organised an ancestors reunion, 89 family members came from Israel, US, México, Argentina, UK for lectures, exhibitions and visits to the city, houses of our families and the cemeteries.

I led a memorial service and Rabbi Folger the Chief Rabbi of  Vienna came, it was very emotional, in 1938 the Synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis. In 1988 it was restored and the Institute was established to counteract anti- and philo-Semitic prejudices and incorrect information through academic research, publications, lectures and activities in the area of adult education and school projects, it uses it as well as a venue for concerts and the yearly summer academy takes place here, which brought me for the  first time back in 2001.

“After the Holocaust, today again used not only as a house of assembly, Beit Haknesset but as a house of prayer, Beit Hatefila”, as the organiser Dr Wolfgang Gasser said in the presence of  the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of its original members. Between them 14 descendants of former Cantor Phillip Wolf Rabinowitsch,  75 years after, we were praying together again, in the same shul our families used to worship. We could say Kaddish with my dear cousins Ruth and Ed in their year of mourning and asked for the souls of all those who had gone to their eternal place of rest.

We learn from the many years of research done by the team of scholars led by Professor Martha Keil, between others of the families and their whereabouts, it teaches about the Cantor; (as you can read below in the exhibition’s panel) how  they are those who have the primary function in the Synagogue service. And in our times we are together with the Rabbi a team as clergy to attend the Community we serve in all aspects.








Liverpool a city that shines

weddingWe were invited to perform at a wedding in Liverpool, doing the singing at the marvelous Synagogue in Princess Road, there I was chanting a duo with my son Yohel, standing next to Rabbi Emeritus Rodney Mariner and participating together with two orthodox Rabbis one from Manchester and one from Liverpool.

20160606_102428The couple, from both Liverpool and our Synagogue in London.










We enjoyed the celebration, the city, the dinners and the company of our, as mentioned extended family of Belsize Square Synagogue, let the summer begin, and many more to come.


Mazal Tov Emma and David!!


The white robe

You might wonder in a blog that focuses on attitudes and behaviour against Israel and Judaism, why I am not writing on the U.K. Labour party’s anti-Semitism scandal instead of the use of the white robe, but you will, at the end understand, besides, you can read all of UK politics in the media, or herenews

I wore a white robe instead of the usual black one the first day of Passover, for the prayer of dew, many approached me and asked why I did.

“Certain features of Jewish dress are as valid today as they were two thousand years ago”[1] Religions have a lot in common and the long robe is only one of them. The Church did very well in copying the attire of the Priests in the Temple of Jerusalem, called the kethoneth as we learn from the Bible[2] and Muslims do as well, long robes are at the end a very usual part of the dress code in western Asia.cantorheller2

So no wonder that we in the most intimate moments of liturgy use it, a black robe by Cantors and Rabbis, a kittel (white robe) in Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah (Day of atonement and New Year), many have te custom to use it during the Pesach Seder (Passover meal) as well, and when praying for the so essential Rain and Dew insertion in the additional service the first day of Passover and in Shemini Atzeret (Eighth day of Assembly) and the state of purity we have to try to achieve when asking God to bestow us with these, we can understand the use of white, from the verse “our sins shall be made as white as snow”[3]

The beauty of seeing religions have so much in common like this example of the robes, brings me again to the question I made at the beginning and which troubles me these days, what makes people hate us and the answer is already given by Rabbi Lord Sacks in his book “Not in the name of God”, where he clearly illustrates how much we do have in common and no reason to kill each other but clearly blames the non-believers philosophy  that for example moved the extreme right in Germany in the 30’s last century and brought the Holocaust upon European Jewry and we can see drives the extreme left in European politics nowadays asking for the same, may democracy win, in this case, as it is very much in need at the other side of the Atlantic, where also extremist’s voices are heard with calls of hate, and where God Our Creator is forgotten, and may we strive to see speedily in our days that He will recognised as the ONE and only for all humanity.[4]

[1] A history of Jewish Costume by Alfred Rubens pg. XV

[2] Exodus 28,29

[3] (Isaiah 1:18)

[4] Zecharia 14.9