The Sounds of a Different Music

The Cantors Assembly — the worldwide organization of cantors — has decided to change the site of its 40th anniversary convention from the Catskill mountains in New York to Jerusalem, in response to President Chaim Herzog’s call to help strengthen Israel’s economy through tourism.

"Despite the added expenses we decided to hold our convention in Jerusalem, July 7 to 21," Cantors Saul Hammerman, the Assembly president, and Shalom Mendelson, the Assembly vice president, said in a press conference at the Hilton Hotel Wednesday. They said the two-week convention, to be attended by almost 1,000 cantors from 16 countries, will also mark the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Tel Aviv’s Mayor Shlomo Lahat took part in the press conference here. He explained that although the convention will be held in Jerusalem he came to express his support because "I am an addict to hazzanut (cantorial music). I am a great supporter and lover of this kind of music, or rather prayers," he confessed.

During the convention, there will be a special hazzanut concert at the Habimah Theater in Tel Aviv, with Lahat as the guest of honor. He will be given the "Kavod Award" from the Assembly. The Mayor said that he is presently in New York to raise money for the Tel Aviv Foundation, which is devoted to the development of poverty neighborhoods in Tel Aviv.

According to Hammerman and Mendelson, the largest group of cantors, about 400, will arrive at the convention from the United States. The Jewish community of Turkey will be represented by a single cantor from Istanbul, they noted.

The highlight of the convention will be the Israeli premiere of "A Time for Freedom," an oratorio based on the trial of Natan Sharansky, the Soviet Jewish dissident who is now living in Israel.

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