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Concert kudos for Johannesburg Jewish Male Choir

Monday afternoon, November 14, the heavens opened up over Johannesburg and cried – so did all those staunch supporters of the Johannesburg Jewish Male Choir as it was going to be a wet ride to Sandton Shul where the 31st concert of the choir was to be held. Fortunately the rain finally abated and there were smiles everywhere!

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This year was unique in that three local artists collaborated with visiting Cantor Aryeh Leib Hurwitz from New York. They presented a “Kaleidoscope of Song”, accompanied by a musical ensemble under the direction of Evelyn Green. 

There was a wide spectrum of music encompassing Hebrew, Yiddish and English. Of the 14 compositions listed in the programme brochure, 10 were new.

The choristers excelled and each of the soloists, Aryeh Leib, Ezra Sher (Pine Street Shul), Russel Lurie (Sandton Shul) and Ivor Joffe of the Marais Road Shul in Sea Point, were in control and reacted to Green’s sensitive conducting; the blend of voices was excellent.

The singing of the words of “Balalaika”, “if I forget thee Jerusalem”, transcended the boundaries of music; the ever so popular music from “Joseph” had the audience joining in.

The old time “Mama” songs were synthesised into a new compilation. The number of tissues being passed around was testimony to the success of this composition!

The heart strings of a new version of “Avinu Shebashamayim” arranged by Meir Finkelstein, brought the audience close to each other and to the Holy Land; in the last few bars the rousing sound of Hatikvah… li yot  am chofshi b’artzeinu… brought on an indescribable emotion. 

Ivor Joffe did justice to the songs of Yonatan Razel of “Katonti”, and “Ashira la-shem” fame, as well as Romania. Not to forget the Jewish wife and mother, a new “Eishet Chayi”l was sung.

Synagogue music is part of Jewish culture; a first-time composition “Umi-p’nei Chatoeinu”, sung on Holy Days and festivals, was well received as was the song “She-ma Yisrael” by Yitzy Waldner – a gentle reminder of those dark days 75 years ago.

Cantor Avron Alter was the surprise participant, singing a composition by his grandfather.

There were just too many compositions to name them all, suffice to say this was a memorable concert emphasising Jewish heritage.

The final number was a tribute to statesman Shimon Peres by the singing of “Avinu Malkeinu”, which was also sung at his funeral. The concert was narrated by the enigmatic Helen Heldenmuth.

For those who missed the concert, a CD will be available towards the end of January. Part of the proceeds from the concert will go to DH Link a remarkable group who care for unfortunate people suffering from cancer.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Neil Hornick

    Apr 29, 2018 at 10:12 am

    ‘I’m writing on behalf of my 86-year old elder brother, Brian Hornick, who’s asked me to help trace three CDs he’s after – all of the Johannesburg Jewish Male Voice Choir. He himself was a seasoned chorister who sang for many years in the London Jewish Male Voice Choir (he was also their Secretary) – with whom, I seem to recall, he once sang in South Africa. 

    Would it b e possible for you to supply me with details of JJMVC’s CDs, together with their prices and whether they can be purchased anywhere in the UK?

    Many thanks,

    Neil Hornick (London)

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Lifestyle/Community

Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi

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More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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Lifestyle/Community

UJW Sewing School graduates model creations

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The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.

They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.

UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.

The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.

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Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke

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The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.

Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.

The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.

“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.

Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.

Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.

“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).

Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”

Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.

“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”

Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.

“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.

The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”

Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.

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