Cantorial Festival in Prague

Alice Grünfeld-Veselá, President of the Czech Council of Jewish Women (CCJW), reports on the 2nd Cantorial Festival in Prague.
We decided to take upon ourselves, for the 2nd time, the hard task to make this dream come true, because as women we deeply feel, perhaps, more than men, the soul, spirit, of the holy music of the synagogue. We wanted to give to the general public in our beloved Czech lands and to the Jewish community a taste of the past which was in hundreds of synagogues here before the Shoah and Communism. So, we brought 5 days of lectures, Shabbat-Chazanut and a concert, all at the highest level of this music, with the face to the future.

The Festival was entitled “Revival of Liturgic Music: The Voices of Cantorial Tradition” and it took place from 21-25 November, 2018. The project was supported and encouraged from sponsors of the Czech Republic, Israel and many another countries.

The Festival included lectures on the cantorial liturgy of Yamim Nora’im; choir & solo singing; master-classes; Shabbat-Chazanut and educational “Open-Mike” concert; all led by Maestro Cantor Naftali Herstik & World Masters of Liturgical Music. All took place at the Jewish Community Prague building in 3 venues with 3 pianos. The delegates in this year’s Convention and the Choir got a highest-level academic tour of Jewish Prague, led by Rabbi Dr. Michael Dushinsky – our dear “Dushi” and expert Sylvia Wittmann.

The Leil-Shabbat Service at famous Altneuschul and the spontaneous Chassidic singing at the Se‘udah lifted the people to tears and joy. The Shabbat day Service at the amazing Spanish synagogue caused “the Seraphim, Ophanim & the angels to descend from the heights – to carry the Cantors’ Praise on their wings & bring it up to the Creator הי”ת”, as said our Upper Land Rabbi Karol Ephraim Sidon.

The tremendous Gala Concert was held in the Spanish Synagogue and Czech people came from all parts of the country. The programme was led by the Chazanim of the Tel Aviv Cantorial Institute Choir, with music from Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, and Jewish Orthodox guest musicians on organ, cello and piano also took part.

200 guests attended the Gala Concert. The concert was organized under the auspices of H.E. Mr. Daniel Meron, Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Czech Republic.

The entire series of Festival events, organised by CCJW, involved more than 75 people from all the world – students, lecturers, singers and instruments players. These women and men, who for very concentrated 5 days studied thoroughly the music of the synagogue and enjoyed it, under the auspices of the host of CCJW, were very grateful to the recipients of all these activities.
There was also a special program for women – “Purim – Ki-Purim” (Zohar) Women-for-Women in Cantillation-Te‘amim – led by Rebbetzin Naomi-Élise Peter-Appelbaum. We discussed the success of her initiative of the women’s reading of Megillat Esther every year in the Jewish community of Prague.

We thank all who helped us, especially Mary Liling and the League of Jewish Women for their support.

You can find more information and pictures on the website