As a resident of Washington Heights since my marriage almost 25 years ago and a member of Khal Adath Jeshurun (Breuer’s) I have been enjoying Norbert Strauss’ beautiful tribute to Chazan Robert Frankel a”h.
My husband, who has lived in the Heights his entire life and has similar fond memories of the majestic way Chazan Frankel conducted his sacred duties as Shaliach Tzibbur, recounted to me the following story:
Years ago, on the side of the men’s section in the rear, there was a small room which was meant as a private space for the chazan in which he could leave his personal belongings.
Traditionally in KAJ, Sunday night of Chanukah was (and still is) very ceremonious with many children and grandchildren returning to Washington Heights to watch as Chazan Frankel would light the grand menorah which stood on the Bimah. Ceremonial candle-lighting, with the singing of Maoz Tzur, took place every night of the holiday. One year, while all eyes were facing forward toward the menorah, Chazan Frankel, standing ramrod straight with the dignity and sense of nobility which were characteristic of him, began to chant the brachos on the candles. Facing toward the rear, Chazan Frankel observed an outsider stepping out of his private room carrying away and stealing his coat. He did not veer away from his melodious singing and did not pause in any way to indicate that something was amiss. There was nothing that would make him detract from the kavod of the Bais Haknesses or interrupt the tefilla.Judy Fulda