Mivtzah Emunah – Operation
Faith – A Voyage of Faith
October 13, 2006 through October 19, 2006
“Members of The
Cantors’ Conservatory and the Jewish Ministers Cantors Association
of America and Canada – I salute you and bid you a hearty welcome
to Israel and to Jerusalem, here in this House of the Lord – this
Mikdash Me’at [Yeshurun Central
Synagogue], where we are about to enjoy the inspired and
inspiring sounds of praise and thanksgiving, rendered by some of
the finest cantorial voices from the USA and Canada.
You have come here on the
wings of Mivtza Emunah – Operation Faith, to demonstrate your feeling
of solidarity and identification with the people of Israel
– and particularly with those of our people, in the North and in
the South – who have had to endure rocket attacks at the hands of
enemies. In performing this extraordinary mitzvah, you are
acting in the finest tradition of our Jewish heritage, which sets
music and song side by side with divine worship and with such qualities
as glory and heroism – yes, and thanksgiving, the theme of tonight’s
These are the words of
H. E. Minister Moshe Aumann,
former Ambassador to Washington and New
York, [Board Member of the Conservatory]
as he addressed Jerusalemites and members of the Conservatory and
the JMCA at the highlight of their mission in Yeshurun Central Synagogue:
Mivtzah Emunah - Operation Faith.
The Cantors first stop
was at Beth Hatefusoth – Museum of the Diaspora and the Feher
Here they were greeted by Dr.
Yuval Shaked, a Conservatory Board Member. They were shown how
all kinds of Jewish Music was being archived and digitized from
all over the world. Heaps of old 78 long playing recordings are
waiting to be transferred and catalogued. Of particular interest
was the reconstruction of wooden synagogues that were destroyed
in the Carpathian Mountains and various synagogue
throughout eastern Europe which existed before the Holocaust. Beth
Hatefutsoth is set against the beautiful campus of Tel
The cantors were encouraged to send their recordings and CDs and
collections from their respective congregations to further enhance
the Feher Music
Center collection. After
the tour by Dr. Shaked, the Cantors had coffee in the beautiful
atrium restaurant at the museum.
From here the
Cantors traveled to Tel HaShomer, the IDF medical facility that was treating IDF soldiers
who had been moved from Rambam Hospital
in Haifa to be treated
at Mercaz Hashikum - the rehabilitation center
at Tel HaShomer in Tel Aviv. Here the Cantors were shown the latest
in hydro-therapy and had the opportunity to visit with soldiers
that had been in combat in the Lebanon
and had survived with life threatening injuries. Cantor Montefiore
was given a Hemse, made by an IDF soldier who had lost a leg in
that was made of terracotta with an inscription: Zeh lo anachnu – zeh haolam! – It is not us – it is the world!
Operation Faith took cantors to beleaguered
beautiful Haifa with a concert at Or Hadash, with its picturesque setting on the slopes of Har Carmel
overlooking Haifa Bay.
An overpowering welcome by residents of Haifa
and a special welcome by Rabbi
Edgar Nof of this community ensued. Rabbi Nof insisted that
the Cantors look at their bomb shelter which looked like a mini
basketball court with a WMD air filtration system and a door that
locked like a door in a submarine. This facility had been donated
by the American Jewish Committee. A Concert of Thanksgiving took place in the
main sanctuary of Or Hadash,
55 Hantke Street, with barely any rehearsal with an a Russian
accompanist given to us by the Haifa Symphony Orchestra – our only
means of communication – a mixture of Hebrew, English and Italian.
There was music and there
were tears and there was especially a feeling of mishpacha, of family. Interestingly, they
had many gifts for the cantors: T-Shirts, Baseball caps, fresh baklava
and momentos of all kinds – just to say thank you for coming. Above
all, the cantors were served the finest meal of chicken soup, rice
and chick peas just before the concert.
Their driver, Yishay
Avital, was a wonderful guide provided for the Conservatory
by the Ministry of Tourism. Yishay’s father-in-law is Moshe Taube,
a very well known cantor that lives in Israel.
Yishay sang along with the hazzanim as they traveled back to Jerusalem.
Of course, the Kotel, the Western or Wailing Wall, to most Jews the world over is an overwhelming
experience and here the Cantors held a Shaharith Service. [It was here too, that we were joined by a camera
crew that began filming Mivtzah
Emunah in earnest for the express purpose of telling the world
the story of the People of Israel, as it exists today. [A documentary of these events is
in the process of being put together and is of broadcast NTSC quality].
It is here that the Cantors chanted prayers for the State of Israel
[Mi Shebeirach] and for those wounded at
war with the Hezbollah and Hamas.
From the Kotel
the Cantors traveled to the new Yad
VaShem. Here they were greeted by Shoshi Rozin who proceeded,
with another docent, to guide us through the most impressive Holocaust
Museum in the world.
Most of the Cantors of the mission have participated at Holocaust
Museums all over the world at various hazkarot
– memorials. It was evident that Yad
VaShem is as close to excellence in the presentation of this
most sensitive part of the Jewish experience. Eventually, we came
to a synagogue at Yad VaShem, where the Hazzanim linked their arms
and sang before the aron – Ani Maamin – I Believe. A little while later, Cantor Montefiore delivered
the traditional Eil Malei
Rachamim – God of Mercy, at the Ner Tamid - Eternal Flame. And, finally, in the
outer courtyard of Yad VaShem – a camera crew recorded the Yiddish
song so familiar with the Holocaust –
What is a trip to Israel
without a visit to Ben
Yehuda Street – so it was off to
and chips before a rest and then a sound test and a concert at Yeshurun
Central Synagogue, 44 King David Street, was abuzz with recording
engineers, cameramen, an accompanist on the concert piano, and executive
director, Yissachar Pollak calling out requests for
people in the schul to do this or that. He managed to have salad
and salmon [lox] and pita and olives ready, back stage so to speak,
for the cantors during the concert. And of course the pyrotechnics
of the Cantors who were warming up for the Concert
Elie Kepecs, Alex Stein, Michael Trachtenberg, Moshe Schulhof, Asher
Hainowitz, Israel Rand, Yehuda Rossler and David Montefiore
were assembled for a concert which had at its theme Tzion,
Ir Hakodesh, Yerushalayim and Psalms of David.We
were accompanied by the deft Raymond Goldstein at the concert grand. Raymond is on the faculty
of The Rubin Academy and teaches Hazzanuth in Jerusalem.
At first the audience was
addressed by Mina Fenton, City Councilor for Foreign Relations, representing the
Jerusalem Municipality [the sponsor of our concert].
H. E. Minister Moshe Aumann followed with his addressed and returned
to his seat, sitting with his brother, Robert
Aumann, the Nobel Prize winner for game theory. One cannot overstate
the enthusiasm for the discerning Jerusalem
audience. But there was a beautiful factor that we had not planned
for. A great many of the audience were made up of ultra- orthodox hassidim. Is was beautiful and emotionally moving to hear them sing
along with the recognizable parts of the t’filoth – prayers and to follow each and every word in the siddurim – prayer books. In a blink of
an eye, a gesher –a bridge
had been formed between one Jew and another. Mivtzah
Emunah illustrates the common language – LaShon HaKodesh – the Hebrew language, as being blind when it comes
to the singing of praises to Hashem – to God. It is a common denominator
and thread that sews us together as one people. It is also important
to point out that there is only one bimah at Yeshurun, for the Shaliah
Tzibur – the Cantor. The only ones to come to the bimah are the
Chief Rabbis of Israel;
Rabbi Lau and Rabbi Metzger respectively, who speak from the Bimah
on the Yamin Noraim –High Holy Days and the Chagim – the Festivals
once a year.
Cantor Montefiore had these
words for the Jerusalemites:
“…the forces of evil have reawakened
a voice more powerful than the grave; to which we have all become
so familiar. It has awakened the collective neshamah
– soul of Klal Yisrael. We who are from far outside the Ohel
Moed, carry within us the Levitical tradition in our hearts
and in our minds and in our neshamoth.
While the swords are sheathed, we pray with words – to the One who
has listened to our prayers since we were able to intercede on behalf
since the Ancient Temple of Solomon - and dared to enter the Kodesh
Recent history has not
been kind to the Jewish People - but here we are, anachnu
po, as witnesses [with you] to our indominatible history and
determination that – Am Yisrael chai - Israel Lives!. Hazzanim the world over, will continue to sing the songs
of our fathers and stand with our brothers and sisters – forever
- ad olam!
And tomorrow morning, God willing, the sun will rise over the parapets
of Migdal David with a
dawning that will bring the dove, whose flight will be seen against
the glare of the sun, heralding peace, Shalom. May it be God’s will
- and let us say: Amen.”
After a wonderfully executed
concert by the Hazzanim, Moshe Aumann wrote:
“Sir David, Hazzan David:
You and your colleagues were magnificent – as was the entire operation
and the beautiful idea behind it! Unfortunately, I could not be
with you throughout your visit, but I have two significant points
of reference: the gala concert at the Yeshurun Synagogue and a report
I received today from my friend Moti Sender of
Gush Katif. Regarding the first, the large turnout (with a minimum
of publicity) and the enthusiastic reception the hazzanim received
were ample evidence of our people’s heart. As I told you at the
conclusion of the concert, David, the highest compliment you could
have received, from this traditionally early-to-bed Yerushalmi crowd,
was the very fact that most of the people stayed on – despite the
late hour – for the second
half of the concert. As for
the second point of reference, Moti was deeply impressed by your
visit (which he described as “highly emotional” for all concerned)
and by the whole concept of Operation Faith. He told me you had
spoken there of the possibility of arranging a special Hanukkah
hazzanut concert (in Tucson?)
[now New York City Hannukah Concert], with proceeds to go for the
sorely and urgently needed rehabilitation of the Gush Katif refugees.
I think that’s a wonderful idea, and I hope it comes to fruition.
After the concert, in the
middle of the night, it was time to eat burgers and chips in downtown
The following morning,
cantors were up bright and early for another chance to pray at the
Kotel and ready themselves
for the journey to Moshav Yad Binyamin.
Yad Binyamin was
more than we had bargained for. We sat down with the Mayor of Yad
Binyamin, Eli Eskozido, in his office, which was turned into a sort
of board room. In the center of the room was a table which had been
set for a hardy brunch as we talked. In addition to the yeshiva
students and former residents of Ganei Tal, Yad Binyamin is also
home to fragments of Gaza settlements such as Gadid, Gan Or, Atzmona,
Neveh Dekalim and Katif. Essentially, Gush Katif, http://english.katif.net/index.php?id=2241&sub=1
which was made up of a series of beautifully manicured
Jewish communities. But the vast majority of evacuees at Yad Binyamin
are either from the yeshiva or from Ganei Tal. "This is not where I want to be," said
Rivka Goldschmidt, an English teacher who lived in Ganei Tal for
28 years before the expulsion. "But
the Torah commands us to be happy.” And that
is why she built a succah. To hear Rivka’s tale and the tale of
Moti Sender and others like him, is to have one’s heart broken before
one is able to speak words of comfort to those dispossessed and
disinherited in one of the greatest follies of the modern State
of Israel. Since the disengagement of Gaza
there has been continuous rocket attacks on neighboring communities
and Yad Binyamin, Sderot and Ashkelon are
extremely vulnerable. 50,000 troops and police arrived to take part
in the Gush Katif destruction; troops that could have
been used to protect Gush Katif rather than destroy it. Moti Sender,
spokesman for Ganei Tal, spoke of rebuilding, bigger and better.
After being shown through a small picture gallery of the way it
used to be in Gush Katif, we drove through the Yad Binyamin complex
of prefab homes that one could easily poke one’s hand through –quite
depressing, and yet they, the Gush Katif ‘refugees’, had managed
to make their little plots look like they had gone to English garden
school. The most maddening thing was to see picture after picture
of what had been bulldozed, blown up or set afire by the wanton
crowds of Gazans in the wake of what finally was a rout. Beautiful
homes, synagogues, cemeteries, green houses and farms were totally
destroyed. To look into the eyes of these chalutzim – pioneers, glass over with tears
of hurt, anger and betrayal was not something we would soon forget.
The Cantors, all students of the Shoah sat with their mouths open
and tears in there eyes as they heard the stories recanted and responded
in broken voices. We have come here today with Mivtzah
Emunah – Operation Faith to let you know that Klal Yisrael –
Jews the world over are with you and feel your pain and anguish
– whatever can be done will be done for you.
After our tour of Yad
Biyamin we ate pizza in the newly constructed primitive mall
made up of a row of stores manned by Gush Katif
refugees where we bought little things to take back to our loved
Binyamin we drove, with our cameraman still in tow, to Sderot.
Here we met the colorful and extremely verbose, Mayor Eli Moyal.
Moyal has become the voice of those who warned the government
not to disengage. He told us of the daily bombings and that approximately
900 Qassam rockets had fallen on Sderot
since the disengagement.
used to land occasionally, but the situation has become intolerable.
The ritual repeats itself. Every summer, government representatives
come to see us and increase the budget so we will not complain.
As if it is possible to sell our suffering for money. This
will not continue - we will not be bought for money. We demand
military action to restore the sense of peace and serenity to this
city to give the people and the Negev a chance
to continue to develop. They don’t want to hear this in Jerusalem
but we don’t care – we want to live in peace. "Two things are
flying now in Israel
- Prime Minister Olmert and the Qassams. We asked Olmert to
come down from the Olympus and look at what
is happening here.” And at that moment, in the middle
of our meeting with Moyal, a prophetic thing happened: two Qassam
rockets landed right near where we were talking in the village.
Moyal called his son on his cell immediately and Cantors Kepecs,
Rossler and Montefiore darted from Moyal’s office with their driver
Yishay and cameraman and went to where the bomb squad had just arrived
to disarm the Qassams. With a camera rolling and our guide and hosts
in tow, we recorded the truth of what Israelis have been telling
the world – land for peace is a very bad deal. The reality of possibly
not returning home to our loved ones, slammed into our faces as
we looked at each other in disbelief.
drove to the outskirts of Gaza,
on a plain manned by an IDF outpost overlooking a valley and the
barbed wire of the new frontier.
It was beautiful as the sun set as we looked west to the Mediterranean
on a land that was once Israel’s,
slip into the rubble of history.
We drove back in
our mini van singing songs of hope, songs of Israel, songs of faith
as we readied ourselves to return to North America to report on
Mivtzah Emunah – our journey
of faith and vowing not to forget those who gave up everything so
that others might live in freedom and peace.
It is important to
note, that although the gravimum of events speak to the heart of
every Jew and non Jew; Tel Aviv, Haifa and
Jerusalem were teeming
with life and visitors from all over the world were enjoying themselves. Only the ancient City of Jaffa,
a jewel to behold, seemed to have fallen prey to the untimely events
of the conflicts in the north and the south.
report would not be complete without the inclusion of this
inspiring yet somber letter.
“This is the letter which my dear
wife Hanna Sender,
my beloved partner to life and to the dream named Ganei-Tal,
wrote to the IDF soldiers sent to expel us. It was posted
on our door yesterday afternoon when we left the house.
This morning the letter was given to the soldiers by my
son and daughter-in-law who had stayed in the house until
the very last moment, which was our agreement with the army.
The letter was read by the expelling soldiers and passed
around to many others who heard of it. My son received a
number of heart-rending letters from soldiers who participated
in the expulsion at Ganei-Tal.”
This is the letter:
Wednesday, August 17, 2005, the
day we were expelled from Gush Katif
No, this is not weakness
Nor is it surrender
Although we are not here any more
I do not have the physical or emotional
strength to wait for you here in my home.
I left out of concern for our health
and welfare instead of meeting you face to face. I just
do not have the strength for that. I know with all my heart
that I have done everything in my power in democratic ways
and through prayer to ward off this terrible thing.
Twenty-seven years ago we arrived
here, a young couple with two children. Here another four
were born. Three of our grandchildren also live here in
Gush Katif, in the town of Neveh-Dekalim. We built
a nursery for house plants and not many years ago founded
the katif.net website.
We were raised, and we raised our
children, too, to believe in God, and to love our land,
including Gush Katif. Gush Katif is our whole life. We know
But if this was fated to happen,
it must be God’s will. Even if we do not understand
His reasons, we believe that everything that happens in
this world is due to His will.
So I am getting up and leaving my
home. I am leaving in great sadness. It is terribly difficult
for me. My hands and legs are weak. Whoever does not experience
this can never understand, even if they say they do. But
I pray to God that there will never be other people who
will have to understand the way we did.
But I also know that we won!
We won because we are still here
We won because we overcame so many
difficulties over the years, economic difficulties, security
problems, a geographical location that was not always convenient.
We won because in our struggle we
kept our faith in God and our belief in His love for His
We won because we did all we could
for our land and our people.
We won because today we leave with
a broken heart but with our heads held high.
We won because we have left behind
a twenty-seven year history of building and doing in Ganei-Tal.
We won because our life in Gush
Katif was entwined in the life of the entire People of Israel.
We won because our struggle will
never be forgotten.
We won because Gush Katif will never
be forgotten. Gush Katif will become part of Jewish and
Zionist history; it will become not just another chapter,
but a symbol, a model to be imitated.
We won because we believe that our
task is not finished.
We won because we know that we must
We won because we love you, dear
I have no doubt that the task you
were given is terribly hard for you, no matter what your
political philosophy and opinions are. I am putting my house
at your disposal. Use it as long as you need, and show respect
toward it when you leave. You will probably meet two of
my children who decided to wait for you here. Please treat
them with consideration and respect and make sure they come
back to us healthy and well.
Let us be strong, for the sake of
our people and for the sake of God’s cities.
And may God do as He sees fit.
Moti and Hanna Sender, Ganei-Tal
Cantor David Montefiore
Jewish Ministers Cantors Association
of America & Canada
The Cantors’ Conservatory
Report: October 25, 2006 03
JMCA and The Cantors Conservatory extends its gratitude to:
E. Isaac Herzog, Minister of Tourism, Government of Israel
Benny Aumann, Ministry
of Tourism, Israel
Consul Arie Sommer,
Ministry of Tourism, New
Consul Daniela Aharoni,
Ministry of Tourism, Los
Naomi Rosenberg, Ministry
of Tourism, Israel
Mayor Uri Lupolianski,
City of Jerusalem
Shmuel Shakdai, City of Jerusalem
Yehuda Naftali, Jerusalem Municipality
Ita Katzover, Jerusalem Municipality
Mina Fenton, Jerusalem Municipality, City Councilor, Foreign Relations
H. E. Minister Moshe
Aumann, Foreign Ministry
Moshe Zur, Haifa Municipality
Rabbi Edgar Nof, Or
Yissachar Pollack, Executive
Director, Yeshurun Central Synagogue
Dr. Yuval Shaked, Director,
Feher Music Center, Beth Hatefutsoth
Karen Rubenstein, Director,
American Zionist Organization
Marty David, Director
General, World Zionist Organization
Lifsha Ben –Shach, Director
Communities Division, WZO
Stuart Mellan, CEO Federation
of Southern Arizona
Moshe Babel-Pour, Director,
Israel Center, Southern
Assoc. Director, Israel Center, Southern
Shoshi Rozin, Yad VaShem
Director – Moshav Yad
Mayor Eli Moyal, Sderot,
Yossi Cohen, Sderot,
Donny Wetzler, Cameraman,
Yishay Avital, driver
and guide, Jerusalem
Dr. A. Zeler, Director,
Tel Hashomer - IDF Hospital
Staff – Dan Panorama
– Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
Ami & Eugene Laff, Phoenix Arizona
special thank you to Cantor Alex Stein, Calgary Alberta for helping to coordinate Mivtzah Emunah – Operation Faith
Dear Rabbi Nof:
I would just like to briefly extend a sincere "Thank You" for your hospitality
during our recent concert-trip to Israel.
I enjoyed the tour of the Lyons Center. You have a beautiful building and
sanctuary. I, and my colleagues, also appreciated the wonderful
food prepared for us prior to our October 17th concert. If it is
not an imposition, would it be possible for the gifted
'chef' who created that marvelous chicken soup to share the
recipe with a Cantor from New York?
Thank you again for your gifts, your hospitality, and for
the opportunity to bring music to the people of Haifa.
Every good wish for peace, happiness and safety
in the coming year.
Cantor Michael F. Trachtenberg
I cannot thank you enough for arriving to Or Hadash. We
all had a rare privilege of being part of an incredibly special
concert and we received many compliments by people who told us that
the concert was wonderful. As for the soup, well the recipe is a
secret, but I promise you that whenever you would like to come to
Or Hadash you will get to eat it....we told our chef that
you complimented her on the soup and she was humbled.
I hope to stay in touch.