Burly, engaging, and wearing a plain National Philharmonic polo shirt, Maestro Piotr Gajewski, 59, has an everyday air that seems contradictory to the often-archaic nature of classical music. Maybe because Gajewski — certified to practice law in Maryland and Virginia and still active in two recreational soccer leagues — is anything but your ordinary conductor.
The world of Jewish music, and especially chazanus (cantorial music), recently lost a giant figure. Dr. Mordechai Sobol — chazan (cantor), composer, arranger, conductor, and broadcaster — died suddenly in September while in the United States for the High Holidays. He was 67 years old.
As someone who attended Beth Sholom Congregation when it was still located in the District of Columbia, I am often asked whether the shul had a microphone back then before it moved to its current location in Potomac. When I reply in the affirmative, my answer is usually met with puzzlement, as Beth Sholom is an Orthodox congregation. The truth of the matter is, at one time, there was great halachic support for the use of microphones on Shabbat; it was only a greater understanding of the science behind their operation, coupled with political considerations, that led to their gradual disappearance from Orthodox synagogues, including Beth Sholom, by the 1980s. It really is a fascinating story.
With everyone returning to school, a very funny story from my past came to mind. It is a story of ingenuity and the fulfillment of the old saying that “necessity is the mother of invention.” It also points out how much things have changed since it happened.
Less than a year after launching the “Jews You Should Know” podcast, Rabbi Ari Koretzky decided to take the show on the road. During his two-week tour of Israel in August, Rabbi Koretzky conducted 25 interviews for the podcast. These episodes, which feature in-depth interviews with exceptional Jewish leaders, will be released one at a time over the next several months.
Ayelet Solomon is a sixth-grade student at the Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland. To celebrate her bat mitzvah, she created and contributed a piece of decorative artwork to the Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington (BCGW) kosher pantry at Children’s National Medical Center as a participant in BCGW’s Art from the Heart program.
Despite their lack of resources, many refugees believe immigrating to America provides a better future. This dilemma was highlighted in Peace Mountain Theater’s production of “A Shayna Maidel,” followed by a panel discussion titled “The Jewish American Dream – Post World War II,” on Oct. 14 at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Maryland.
Like many popular Israeli films, military life is placed front and center in “The Last Band in Lebanon.” But the similarities end there. The 2016 hit comedy follows three military band reservists who reunite for one last gig — only to find out they have been left behind as the Israeli army pulled out of Lebanon.
On Aug. 19, Nicholas Fessenden delivered a lecture to a packed room of 83 attendees at the Jewish Museum of Maryland entitled “Immigration in the Age of Houdini: 1880 to 1924.” The lecture was held in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibit, “Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini.”
At one time, he was a gigantic star of radio and television. His programs were on the air for hours every day. He was a beloved and trusted presence for decades, and had tens of millions of fans. He used the fame and power of his career, which began right here in the Greater Washington area, to open previously closed doors to Jewish and black artists. And then, at the height of it all, one ill-advised incident caused his popularity to slowly erode and his presence to fade away. The name Arthur Godfrey is now generally unknown — broadcasting’s forgotten giant.
On Sunday, Aug. 19, in Fairfax, Virginia, musical group Re-Joyce! performed for the first gathering of “Art & Soul,” an inspirational new women’s program at Chabad of Northern Virginia. A monthly program brought to the community by the Jewish Learning Initiative (JLI) Rosh Chodesh Society, “Art & Soul” is designed to explore Judaism’s insights into the arts and how they beautify and transform our lives, one brushstroke at a time.
Re-Joyce! is a group of Jewish women whose love of music and Judaism brought them together to perform works by Jewish composers in a broad range of genres — from Broadway to classical to Chassidic melodies. Experienced pianist, music teacher, and choral director Joyce Friedman leads the group, which includes Cindy Cohen on flute, Nessyah Buder on saxophone, and Miriam Albright on vocals.
For more information about the “Art & Soul” program, contact Rebbetzin Raizel at (571) 279-2586.
By Kol HaBirah Staff
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