Last weekend two Synagogues that are the guardians of their unique musical legacy, the Pestallotzistrasse from Berlin and Belsize Square from London, showed their very best.
These synagogues are the embodiment of the great tradition of the Liberale German Jewry and its renowned liturgy, together with to my knowledge, two others, one in NY and one in Brazil.
The German synagogue was attacked by a mob during Kristallnacht and set on fire, but given its very sturdy construction, the damage was largely superficial. As was the case with the Seitenstattengasse synagogue in Vienna, it was also not set fully ablaze because of the fear of damaging the adjoining houses. Other important Synagogues in Berlin were completely destroyed, the Oranienburgerstrasse Synagogue, as can be read in a previous post in this blog and the Fassanenstrasse Synagogue, from were my predecessor, Cantor Magnus Davidsohn, the first Cantor of Belsize Square came from, these two last ones were the Liberale movements flagships and Louis Lewandowski’s Synagogue music was the core of the liturgy, as was Salomon Sulzer’s in the more traditional Viennese one, which did not have an organ, although his music is of the many compositions we use at Belsize in contrast to the Pestallozzistrasse one, which is only using Lewandowski’s music.
A key figure in the success of the Pestalozzistrasse synagogue in its new incarnation was the Salonika-born Estrongo Nachama (1918–2000), who survived Auschwitz. Nechama was succeeded by my dear friend Cantor Itzhik Sheffer here this weekend and in the picture together with me, sharing the Bimah.
The Choirmaster’s as L. Lewandowski himself, are the custodians of the music used and to have the Choirs in good shape, not to speak of also the Cantors, I am very lucky to have Dr. Benjamin Wolf as our Choirmaster and as in the past, also Belsize was very lucky to have had Rebbetze Sue Mariner, many years the Youth Choirmaster now succeeded by Alyson Denza. Pestalozzi has had for over twenty years the very dynamic and knowledgeable Regina Yantian as its Choirmaster and also the Music Director of the Lewandowski Festival.
Rabbi Sievers, the head of gabbaim of the German Synagogue, Mr. Rotholtz, Cantor Sheffer and Mrs. Yantian brought their youth Choir to London this weekend invited by our Synagogue to participate in our Shabbat services and to a Concert with the title of my post. Key figures that we missed this weekend was the Choral Ensemble, the Synagogue’s professional choir and Mr Nils B. Petersen, the Director of the Lewandowski Festival a very successful project created by the above mentioned Pestallotzi team, already mentioned here and in other of my posts.
Nachwuchs, L’Dor Vador, is the word I already heard in Stockholm which Cantor’s Rosenbluth and Bornstein used and which we very much have to cherish, as Maimonides mentions in Maase Avot siman le Banim, “the work of the elders is a sign for the new generations” we certainly did it this week with the new partnership created between our Synagogues and supported by the Rabbis and it’s lay leadership and so well demonstrated by our kids. Thank you to them all, we look very forward to a future maintaining the tradition our Synagogues are transmitting to the next generations.
Hazakim H’Bruchim, May your efforts be blessed and grow !