Author: Jeremy Stein

Yerushalayim Shel Zahav–It’s Roots and Legacy

“I have learned much wisdom from my teacher, more from my colleagues and the most from my students” (BT Ta'anit 7a). I recently taught an adult ed class on Yerushaliyim Shel Zahav. The goal was to help participants gain an understanding of the lyrics and some of the song’s history. In particular, I wanted to highlight the Judaic references in the song and how Naomi Shemer cleverly incorporates them.  Some of the references I had been taught. Others I researched myself. While I walked into the class already feeling confident in my understanding of the song, the depth of some of the lyrics only become apparent to me while engaged in a dialogue with the participants, many of whom had never looked at the meaning of the words. Below is a summary of what we discussed.  Yerushalayim Shel Zahav: Praise or Lament? When considering the meaning of the song, it is important to remember that it was written in 1967, prior to the Six-Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem. In its praises of Jerusalem, there is also the sense of sadness in the Jews’ not having full access to Jerusalem. Opening with praises of beauty, Shemer closes the first stanza referring to Jersualem as a city that sits solitary with a wall in its heart. The “wall” is an obvious reference to the Kotel, and “heart” is a...

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Ganchoff the Great

By Way of Introduction When I began my formal cantorial training, one of the names that kept coming up was Moshe Ganchoff. Sure, there were others, Rosenblatt, Kusevitsky, Pinchik. But when teachers would mention Ganchoff’s name, it seemed to be in a different tone of voice. Subtle, but with just a slightly heightened sense of awe and respect. Ganchoff, the beautiful voice. Gachoff, the master interpreter of hazzanut. Ganchoff, the great improvisor. Yet, with all the platitudes awarded to Ganchoff, I remember hearing very few recordings of his singing. And as I began to build my record and CD collection of cantorial music,...

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Why Don’t They Daven Like Yossele Anymore?

Entering Birkat Hamazon I have great memories of singing Birkat Hamazon at Camp Ramah in New England. The immense dining hall was filled to capacity (and probably beyond) with rowdy campers singing and banging on the tables, and their counselors trying to keep them under control while simultaneously encouraging their overflowing ruah. At the conclusion of Birkat Hamazon, we would continue singing a nigun to the melody of na'ar hayiti, banging on the table even harder. At the end of each round we would jump up and shout "One more time HEY!" and repeat the nigun as many times...

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The Moishe Oysher Chanukah Party- The Vinyl Maven

How Do You Spell Hanukah, Chanuka, Chanukah? If you go to the store to buy candles, banners, napkins or other accessories for Chanukah, you'll likely find multiple attempts to transliterate this word whose letters do not all have an equivalent in English. Is it Chanukah? Chanuka? Hanukah? Jannooqa??? You'll see them all. But none of these spellings quite works for this month's album (which, oddly enough, spells it differently on the front and back covers). For on the opening track, Happy Chanukah, the spelling of Moishe Oysher's authentic Yiddish pronunciation of the aforementioned holiday is more accurately represented as "Chanikeh." The "i"...

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The Vinyl Maven: Jan Peerce- Yes He Cant!

About Vinyl Maven Over the years, I have amassed a large collection of Jewish music on vinyl. Many I have bought from record shops. Others were given to me by individuals or libraries clearing out their collection. Some were literally left by the doorstep, in the hopes that someone would give them a good home. There are the classic cantors, Broadway shows (nearly every collection has at least one version of Fiddler on the Roof), and 1970's rock services. Folk songs in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino. There's comedy, jazz, and historical speeches. While organizing a particularly varied collection I had inherited, I decided I wanted to...

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