Saturday, May 17, 2008

Chaz Celebrates Goldfarb

Musical Note By Cantor Sherwood Goffin
Rabbi Goldfarb: Cantor/Composer

What do the melodies for "V'neemar" (Alenu), "Sholom Aleichem" (the version that just about everyone sings) and the Blessings for the Chanukah Candles have in common? They were all composed by Rabbi-Cantor Israel Goldfarb (1879-1956), who was the rabbi of the Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn from 1905-1956. In 1920 he was appointed to the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary as an instructor in liturgical Music, a post he held until 1942. Rabbi Goldfarb was the first officially designated teacher of synagogue music of any institution in New York. His classes were the predecessors to the Cantorial Institute founded by the seminary in 1952.

Together with his brother Samuel, many popular melodies for Zemirot and the synagogue were composed and widely disseminated. Rabbi Goldfarb's greatest claim to fame, of course, is his "Sholom Aleichem" (c. 1917), which is still sung in almost every home in America today. I know that this will come as a surprise to all of you who were certain that your European great-grandfather always sang this melody!

Daven well and sing along!


The Goldfarbs are my great-aunt's family. Samuel and Israel had a brother Joseph, who was my great-uncle, who I think died before I was born. Joseph was a cantor in Cong. Kol Israel in Prospect Heights, which still exists but has a more Lubavitch influence under R' Ari Kirschenbaum; Samuel went out West, where he had a major influence on Reform liturgical music (aside from composing "I Have a Little Dreidl"); and Israel, as noted above, taught generations of Conservative cantors.

Israel was also a member of the last rabbinic class at the Seminary under more-or-less Orthodox auspices, in 1902, along with classmate (and fellow JTS faculty member) Mordechai Kaplan. They went rather different ways, religiously, even if part of the same institutions.

I went to my cousin's bar-mitzvah recently, and Jo-Mack seems to have inherited some of his great-grandfather Joseph's liturgical ability - he leined and led part of the service quite comfortably and ably.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Just History or Living History

Haven't written in a while, fiendishly busy with Pesach and the shul dinner, but this story about a woman whose experience goes agaisnt the common opinion of historians about goings-on at Auschwitz, caught my wife's eye, and mine.

My comment thereto as well, about a family member's experience in a death camp (as part of the US Army) that goes against the common wisdom, and the wishes of deniers that it not have happened.