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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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

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From Vienna to Straßburg

bittmanTwo wonderful musical offerings this week, beginning with  Matthias Bartolomey and Klemens Bitmann  on Monday at the Austrian Embassy in London, celebrating 150 years Austrian Embassy at Belgrave Square a concert with a personal invitation from the Ambassador together with many personalities from all the spectrum of  diplomacy in the UK and focused on their new album “Neubau“, for reconciliation and peace as they explained, after the tragic events in Paris last year.

And Sunday evening, an invitation from Belsize Music to the Zemel Choir and Poliphoniques Hebraiques, with two outstanding choirmasters following the steps of the greatest in Jewish music. Dr. Benjamin Wolf, who has taken over the position of the greatest choirmasters of the world in Synagogue music, he also directs the Professional and Community Choirs at Belsize Square Synagogue which took over the XIX century’s tradition of Louis Lewandowski and Salomon Sulzer,  between others and which I so proudly serve as its Cantor.

Hector Sabo, also born in South America as myself has the honour to follow the steps of another great choirmaster of the nineteenth century Samuel Naumbourg, and who directed his Strasbourg Synagogue´s Choir around 1842, composing and at the stature of the two previously German and Austrian composers.

cantorsAnd here I am together in this fantastic evening with two renowned Cantors Robert Brody and Jonathan Blum, accompanied by Maestro Mike Cayton, performing  Seu Shearim,  of the 21st century great Composer and colleague, Cantor  Meir Finkelstein, then we finished the encore with another of Finkelstein’s masterpieces LeDor Vador together with the choirs and directed by both choirmasters, a unique and seldom seen rendition.

Just another week of sharing with wonderful musicians, composers,  choirmasters and singers elevating our spirituality so much in need these days, striving for Tikkun Olam, reparation of the world.

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My professional colleagues

Last week a giving music one. And the joy of hearing in action.
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The 11th of November in remembrance day. Directing a Requiem for the Fallen. The organist of Belsize Square Synagogue, Maestro Mike Cayton in his role as choirmaster in his St John’s Wood Church, a multifaceted musician of the highest class, not in vain has received the title of “wunderbar”.

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And in the role of Daland.

One of imageour Professional Choir members, Bass John Milne performing at the Opera The Flying Dutchman. Two friends in another of their jobs as professional musicians, and what an honour to be their colleague.
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The Temple Mount

Ramp_to_Temple_Mount_Mughrabi_gate_from_south,_tb090705049-784039It should not surprise anyone that the Muslim prophet had a spiritual revelation at the holy site where the Stone that is the Cornerstone of God’s presence in earth lays. The Jewish Temple was raised there and the Holy of Holies that contained within the stone tablets that Moses presented to the world with the ten commandments received at Mount Sinai. This is where the Biblical patriarchs had also experienced God. And where Jewish belief traces the formation of  humanity ‎as we know it.

But, the Muslim prophet came about in the seven hundreds as did Islam. And the Jewish people had ever since the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in the year 70 instituted prayers towards the site where the Temple stood, three times a day.

Three times a day praying in the last 2000 years for the return of God’s presence and peace on earth. The other religion born after the destruction of the Temple, Christianity built shrines all over the world and a service that would replace the former Temple´s. I do not know much about Islam but I know they pray several times a day facing not Jerusalem but Mecca and I am sure also asking God for blessings and peace.
mhThen we should ask ourselves if the UN body that has the call to objectively see the importance of all of the world´s patrimony to humanity, what today can be demonstrated by archeologists of  the rests of walls that belonged to the Holy Temple and sacred for the Jewish religion has more than ever the obligation to recognise them as part of Jewish legacy and central as it is to its vision of hope for humanity.