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 Israel’s 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 concert.”

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 Music Center. 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 Aviv University. 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 the Lebanon, 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 – “Moishelach Shloimelach”.

What is a trip to Israel without a visit to Ben Yehuda Street – so it was off to Ben Yehuda for schwarma and chips before a rest and then a sound test and a concert at Yeshurun Central Synagogue.

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 of Thanksgiving.

Cantors: 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 of Israel, since the Ancient Temple of Solomon - and dared to enter the Kodesh Kadashim.

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 Jerusalem.

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 ones.

From Yad 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 of Israel not to disengage. He told us of the daily bombings and that approximately 900 Qassam rockets had fallen on Sderot since the disengagement.

“The Qassams 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.

Finally, we 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.  

This 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

 Dear Soldier,
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 no other.
But if this was fated to happen, it must be Gods 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 today.
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 people.
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 go on.
We won because we love you, dear soldier! 

Dear soldier:
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 Gods cities. And may God do as He sees fit.

 Moti and Hanna Sender, Ganei-Tal     

Respectfully submitted,
Cantor David Montefiore
Jewish Ministers Cantors Association of America & Canada
The Cantors’ Conservatory

Report: October 25, 2006                                                             03 Heshvan 5767    


The JMCA and The Cantors Conservatory extends its gratitude to: 

H. E. Isaac Herzog, Minister of Tourism, Government of Israel
Benny Aumann, Ministry of Tourism, Israel
Consul Arie Sommer, Ministry of Tourism, New York
Consul Daniela Aharoni, Ministry of Tourism, Los Angeles
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 Hadash, Haifa
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 Arizona
Abigael Behar-Montefiore, Assoc. Director, Israel Center, Southern Arizona
Shoshi Rozin, Yad VaShem
Eli Askozido, Director – Moshav Yad Binyamin
Mayor Eli Moyal, Sderot, Israel
Yossi Cohen, Sderot, Israel
Donny Wetzler, Cameraman, Jerusalem
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

A very 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 


 Dear Michael, 
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.