Oh for the glory days of great synagogue music

ARE we spending too much on over-sophisticated communal events?

Who are our community events organising committees aiming at and are they alienating some of the community?

We only have limited dates when it is possible to come together as a community - Selichot, Yom Hazikaron/Yom Ha'atzmaut, Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day and Yom Yerushalayim.

At one time, these events were marked by communal services held in rotation at different synagogues.

These were always well-attended across the age divide.

Services were memorable, moving and fitting for the occasion.

Midnight Selichot is now in vogue and the shuls involved give the community choice. At one time, Manchester's Higher Crumpsall Synagogue was full to the rafters for a choral sefira service.

We are fortunate for Kel Molei Rachamim and Kaddish to still be recited.

Mention these things to those running UJIA, ZCC, Yom Hashoah, etc, and the answer is: "Maybe next year we will discuss it - no one wants it any more."

Maybe it's because those holding the purse strings do not understand - or want to understand - the concept I am trying to put to them.

Why not try it properly and if it fails, then at least it was tried?

Synagogue music conveys many aspects of our lives and feelings from the sad times of our history to those joyous occasions and the miracle of Israel.

It is not all about youngsters and what they want.

There are many active members in the community who are 50, 60 and 70 and are not catered for at major events.

At one time, Manchester always had a big name for Yom Ha'atzmaut and a real concert enjoyed by all. After all, it is the UK's second largest Jewish community.

The excuse is that the funding goes to London or that we have no money.

The bottom line is: if those holding the purse strings wanted it, it would happen.

They don't want it, so it does not happen.

I am always available to help and advise. I was told after six cantorial conventions that it would not work outside London and no one would attend.

With negativity, hostility and no help from my fellow London-based executive members, I brought the convention to Manchester and added a Shabbat of chazzanut.

The result? The best convention and more attending from around the world.

We have progressed to collaborating with the University of Leeds in a conference - Magnified and Sanctified, the Music of Jewish Prayer - run as an academic conference.

There was a convention in Budapest and Prague with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis stating: "I am absolutely and totally behind you and would like to be a partner in all of your noble efforts."

A cantorial concert that Avrom Bishop organised for the Heathlands care home was packed out. And Shulem Lemmer enhanced the recent Whitefield Communal Kollel gala dinner.

When are our purse holders going to get the message that they are alienating many in the community by not investing in high-quality communal synagogue services?

You don't have to be Orthodox to attend these events.

It unites all the community and is a dignified way of showing our non-Jewish friends and supporters that our spiritual heritage and prayer is still meaningful.

Alex Klein,
European Cantors Association.

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