Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Cantor Yaakov 'Yanky' Lemmer

Cantor Yaakov Motzen

Congregation Rinat Yisrael will host a cantorial concert Saturday night, November 14, at 8pm, featuring Cantor Yaakov “Yanky” Lemmer and Cantor Yaakov Motzen. They will be accompanied by Cantor Daniel Gildar. Rabbi Yosef Adler, rabbi of Congregation Rinat Yisrael, will share a special message with the attendees and will introduce some of the pieces with background information that will help enhance appreciation of the songs.

“I happen to be an enormous chazanut buff,” says Rabbi Adler. “My father weaned me on chazanut. I grew up with chazanim in my life, growing up in Borough Park, and was blessed to hear the great Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky for six years.”

Rabbi Adler wanted to offer the community the opportunity to hear real classic chazanut. While for the past five or six years Cantor Motzen has come to Congregation Rinat Yisrael once a year to lead services, the concert will be more than popular songs from the Shabbat liturgy. To Rabbi Adler’s knowledge, this is the first time in the last 25-30 years that Bergen County has hosted a Chazanut Classics concert.

“Give it a try,” Rabbi Adler requests, “and listen carefully to how each cantorial piece interprets the words.” According to Rabbi Adler, the great masters had the ability to interpret the words and meaning behind each piece and reflect the tone and the message of that particular prayer. “Listen carefully to the words and how the chazanim interpret them and you’ll be amazed. There’s a great piece called ‘Acheinu,’ by the great Yossele Rosenblatt, which describes our pleas and petitions to Hashem. His rendition is such a moving one that when I’m down, I listen to it to give me some chizzuk.”

Rabbi Adler hopes the Jewish Link readers from the City and Monsey, particularly from the Chassidic communities, will attend the concert. He says that so many of the elite cantors have Chassidic backgrounds, such as Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, Yaakov Stark and Cantor Lemmer, and that chassidim have taken a real liking to the chazanut.

The great cantors of the golden age of chazanut of the previous generation were masters of what type of piece was appropriate for their congregants. Rabbi Adler shared an example of this with the Jewish Link from his own experience with Cantor Koussevitzky. There was a piece from the late 1920s by Cantor David Roitman, from the Selichos service, “Ashamnu Mikol Am.” The prayer states that when we’re in the confessional mode, we have sinned more than any other nation. Cantor Koussevitzky, a Holocaust survivor, said that after witnessing what he did in the camps, he could not say that we have sinned more than the other nations. He understood exactly what he was davening. Rabbi Adler remembers Cantor Koussevitzky skipped that entire section of the Selichos.

Cantor Lemmer is the cantor of Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan, and Cantor Motzen is the cantor of The Shul of Bal Harbour, Florida, and the fifth generation of a family of cantors. They are being accompanied by Cantor Gildar, whom Rabbi Adler says is the accompanist at nearly every cantorial concert there is. The cantors will each sing separately, but they will also perform some of the classics together. Attendees will be treated to some classic examples of chazanut, including “Rozo,” a mystical prayer from the Sefardic Shabbat prayers.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.rinat.org/concert, email [email protected] or call 201-837-2795. Congregation Rinat Yisrael is located at 389 West Englewood Avenue in Teaneck.

By Sara Kosowsky Gross