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A SEASONAL INVOCATION
Op-ed by Carleton Cronin, West Hollywood, California
As Rosh Hashanah passes and we look forward to Yom Kippur, I emailed my friend Norman, a man whose views I value greatly. Also, he is a major item in the Jewish section of my beloved’s extensive family. (Not to mention that he also went to Boston Latin High School.) I wanted to use him as sounding board, to hear what would resonate when I told him of my waking dream the other day.
“Kol nedre”both the anonymous voice and the flashing sign kept telling me. I went to the computer (of course) to confirm my understanding of the words. I found that my dream spelt it incorrectly. Kol nidre , is the proper spelling – in English.
The Exodus 1947, which brought the cause of Jewish immigration to Israel to international prominence.
My conversations with Norm caused me to recall a weekend in New York when, with three other boys of about fifteen, We were the guests of a man, not a Jew, but who had strong connections to the cause of a Jewish homeland.
We were taken to an enormous synagogue where Jan Peerce, the great tenor was cantor. It was the eve before Yom Kippur, and the prayer, Kol Nidre, was sung at the beginning of the service. I believe I listened open-mouthed as the power of the music and the fervor of the words (Aramaic - which I did not understand) flowed over the congregation. As I type this now, the impact of that evening returns to me.
First of all, I am not a Jew. I am a rather old-fashioned Irish Catholic with somewhat rebellious views of much that any orthodoxy represents. However, early in life I learned to be open-minded and that has made the journey much richer.
The man who took us to that Yom Kippur service was a Methodist minister with an unique connection to the followers of Abraham.
Carleton Cronin writes on life in the urban wilds of West Hollywood.
He was the United Nations observer on the ill-fated refugee ship Exodus 1947 when it attempted to land European Jews in Palestine. The British were, of course, still imperially driven and boarded the ship, beating everyone in sight and forcing the vessel to return to the port from which it had set out. Rev. Stanley Grauel championed Jewish cause all the rest of his life, believing it was his ecumenical duty. As for me, I shall ever be grateful to him for brining me to that temple service.
Yom Kippur, is the sacred Day of Atonement in the Jewish calendar and the opening prayer, centuries old, is a principal statement in their liturgy.
“See, O Lord, what miserable sinners we are. We promise to live better lives each year and yet always fall short of keeping them. Therefore, help us, O Lord, and pardon us for our shortcomings.” - Rabbi Jacobs.
Seems almost trite when stated in English, but after at least fifty centuries of travail, to me it is an astonishing belief in the future of Man and the belief in a God.
Though the ancient prayer is wrenched from the depths of a tortured collective soul, to hear a cello making the same statement is to hear the voice of a single entity. Those of you who can venture to YouTube, take time to call up Kol nidre , especially to hear Lynn Harrell, whom I first heard at the Aspen music festival many years ago, as he plays Bruch’s Kol Nidre,
Listen to it in a darkened room, if you can, to be alone with it. Lord Byron, the romantic English poet, was so moved by that prayer and others from the Jewish liturgy which had been set to music that he wrote poems of praise and included them in his own collection called Hebrew Melodies.
Temple Kol Ami has been West Hollywood's LGBT synagogue of choice for over 20 years.
Incidentally, Max Bruch, the composer of the cello piece, was a Protestant who was inspired by the content of the prayer. Surely, we are all connected, especially those of us with Reason to recognize our transgressions and Hope to be able to rise above them – and be willing to accept the invitation to join with those assembled to pray with them.
The cantor chants in the ancient Aramaic, the soulful phrases which begin with “Kol nidre” and dramatically continue, some nearly whispered, others intoned in a firm loud voice. It was repeated three times so latecomers to the ceremony would be sure to hear.
On Tuesday, August 20, I was with friends at the Hollywood Bowl when we were treated to an evening of an unusual pairing of songs from the Yiddish theater, Yitzhak Pearlman’s violin, a wild and happy Klezmer band and a magnificent cantor, Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. I’m on the search for his recordings.
Yom Kippur begins at sundown on September 13th, 2013. Ask your Jewish friends if they will invite you to service. It will be an occasion for you to think about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
(A stray thought: If I, a son of Erin am so moved by this liturgy and its form of presentation then, perhaps, just maybe, the Irish really are the Lost Tribe of legend.)