Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Perpetual Pesach

Two kindred spirits in the Minsk Jewish Campus parking lot : the matzah-colored Zhiguli and the matzah.

I have 5 seders down and another 2 to go. Apparently, the Minsk Jewish community likes to have a lot of Pesach seders throughout the entire week of Pesach. You would think more than two seders would be enough to make anyone say "dayenu," but somehow, I'm still going strong. Possibly thanks to my box of "Joint" brand matzah that I took home with me on Friday afternoon!

One of the highlights of Pesach 2008 in Minsk was the Cantorial Concert held in a large concert hall in the center of the city on April 22nd. The concert was organized by the World Union for Progressive Judaism, Minsk JCC Emunah, and sponsored by the Joint Distribution Committee and Union of Jewish Communities. The concert showcased musical pieces composed and sung by cantors and performers from Israel, America, Russia and other countries as well. Additionally, dances were performed by groups of children and young adults from the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Minsk JCC. Every performance added something special to this concert.
The concert began with a group of cantorial students from Hebrew Union College, accompanied by Rabbi Grisha Abramovich, carrying a Torah into the concert hall and laying it down on a small platform on the stage. They covered the Torah in talitot and it remained on the platform throughout the entire concert, transforming the stage into a real bima just for the event.
An especially moving performance was by a young boy named Dmitry Rubinshtein, who recently celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. Since having a Bar Mitzvah is less common for Jews in Minsk today, Dmitry's choice to have a Bar Mitzvah reflects a strong commitment to his Jewish heritage. Dmitry played guitar and sang "
Yerushalayim Shel Zahav," "Jerusalem of Gold," while a captivated audience sat silently listening to his sweet voice and perfect accompaniment.

How powerful it was to sit amongst a multi generational Jewish audience of more than 200, listening to such resonant Jewish songs, in a concert hall in the heart of Minsk. A concert hall situated less than a kilometer away from what was once the
Minsk Ghetto. And today, Jews can proudly carry their Torah right into the hall and hold a concert while it remains in the spotlight throughout.The contrast between Jewish Minsk during those years in history and today could not have been more tangible.
Click the arrow to see Dmitry's performance.

The concert quite appropriately concluded with "Dayenu" in Yiddish. All performers joined this classy lady on stage and sang together.

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