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October 02, 1959 - Image 44

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1959-10-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, October 2, 1959 44

'Whatever Happened, I Could Sing': Cantor Jakob
Goldstein, Modest Hero of the London Blitzkrieg

The strangest series of Jewish
music concerts ever given began
in the Manor House Tube Sta-
tion of London, England, back
in 1940 while the Luftwaffe
roared overhead.
Mrs. Barbara M. Ribakove, in
a Seven Arts Feature, tells the
story of the dauntless Cantor
Jakob Goldstein, beloved Haz-
zan of London's Great Syna-
gogue, whose voice lent strength
and courage to the beleaguered
12,000 men and women who
huddled together every night,
seeking comfort against whining
motors and falling bombs.
Jew and non-Jew had come
to know the kindly, one-time
cantor of Vilna, whose white
clerical collar and black suit
could be seen dodging from
bomb site to hospital ward to
death bed, tirelessly assuming
more and more duties of the
hard-pressed chief rabbi, Dr.
Joseph Hertz.
"One night," writes Mrs. Rib-
akove, "when the raid was
heavy, Cantor Goldstein and his

wife Tiba, took shelter in the
Manor House Station. Picking
their way through the dark,
crowded tunnel, they were rec-
ognized by a congregation mem-
ber.
" 'Reverend,' a voice said,
`could you sing—maybe—just a
little song?' Cantor Goldstein
stopped. He peered into the
dark. 'But everyone is asleep,'
he protested. The man shook
his head. 'We're really not sleep-
ing. Please, Cantor, my wife is
not taking it so well.' The Can-
tor stooped down. Very softly,
he began a song, a Yiddish song,
quiet and tender." And as the
woman raised her face, the story
goes on, other people stirred,
sat up . . .
Accompanied by a man with
a portable organ who could
play by candlelight, Cantor
Goldstein sang seven nights a
week until the blitz of London
was over. Although the gentiles
understood few words of the
Yiddish and Hebrew songs, "the
sound of prayer, of faith in the
future, of hope pouring out of

sorrow needed no translation;
they understood—and learned
the songs well enough to ask
for favorites again and again ...
"When a bomb fell close by, the
Cantor sang louder. When the
Extends best wishes to their tunnel quivered, people laughed
aloud and joined him on the
many Jewish customers and

imrizr) mit) rrn0

PLANTERS

friends.

refrains, shouting them above
the roar." Once he broke off in

The Ideal Oil

the middle of a song to help a
woman give birth to a baby.
"British newspapermen, de-
scending into the tunnel to hear
him and report, asked when he
slept. The cant or answered
blankly that he didn't know. He
didn't need to know. He was
born not to sleep but to sing."
Just before Yom Kippur, Mrs.

WM

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L'SHONO TOVO TIKOSEVU

Detroit Council of Pioneer Women
Wish Their Members, Their Many Friends and
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A Very Happy and Healthy New Year

Mrs. Sam Wasserman

New Year Greetings To All
Members and Friends of the

an hour, when the warning
siren wailed to take cover, no
one moved. The cantor "dropped
his eyes before they met the
Rabbi's," and he went on
singing.
"The drone of the bombers
filled the air," Mrs. Ribakove
goes on. "The anti-aircraft bat-
teries began to fire. The thud
of bomb hits began, like a giant
walking the earth. As the Can
for reached Un'sane Tokef, a
land mine crashed into Totten-
ham, a thousand yards away. A
window shattered behind the
choir upstairs . . . The Cantor .
spread out his arms and shouted
above the screams and sirens
that filtered in the ruined win-
dow, 'The service is over! Go
to the shelter!'
"A man stood up. 'Please con-
tinue the service, Cantor. While
you sing, nothing will happen
to us!' And again, no one
moved."
Chanting a quarter hour into
the service, at the Avodah pray-
er, Cantor Goldstein was over-
come by exhaustion, hunger and
concern for the safety of his
congregation. He fainted.
Hours later, he was back in
the synagogue singing the N'ilah
prayer.
Years after the war, Cantor
Goldstein denied being a hero.
"I was in no greater danger
than anyone else," he said. And
it was easier for me. Whatever
happened, I could sing."
Jakob Goldstein, now Hazzan
of the Sons of Israel Congrega-
tion in Brooklyn, N.Y., has sung
in synagogues and concert halls
of Paris, London, Poland, Israel,
South America and the United
States, "But the greatest con-
certs he ever gave, the ones for
which he will be longest re-
membered and most beloved,
were those that were accom-
panied by the sounds of terror
in the tunnels of war-time
England!"
And in the great tradition of
his father, young Israel Gold-
stein was graduated as cantor
this year from the Hebrew
Union School for Sacred Music.

Harry Glaser, president
Jack Sherman, vice-president

2.319.11SULILLAS .9.1.SULSULSULRAMPAS19-MSULCULti

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CHAIM WEIZMANN SOCIETY

;1

Ribakove writes, Dr. Hertz warn-
ed the cantor to limit the serv-
ices to less than an hour. The
Germans were now flying over
London by day as well as night.
Cantor Goldstein agreed to
watch the signal from the offi-
ciating rabbi. Then he and the
congregation would go to the
shelter.
But a delegation from the ,
congregation stopped him on the
way to the bima. " 'Cantor—
don't cut the service short. Do
it as you do it every year. Any-
one who wants to leave can
leave.' Cantor Goldstein mur-
mered, 'But the Rabbi has said
. . . ' A member of the congre-
gation leaned forward. 'Don't
look at the rabbi,' he suggested.
'Sing.' "
Twenty-five hundred English
Jews crammed into the 1300-
capacity synagogue. And after

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Our Sincerest Wishes for a

Very Happy New Year

to Jewish Communities in Michigan,
Israel and throughout the world

PINSKER PROGRESSIVE AID SOCIETY

SAM ROSENBERG, President
DAVE WIENER, Vice President

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