The prestigious Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in central Moscow was filled with the sound of Hebrew on Tuesday evening, in an event that was extraordinary precisely because it has become ordinary here.
Outside the hall on Mayakovsky Square, Muscovites shuffled by in the evening rush hour, no one looking askance at the posters announcing a concert by the Mens’ Choir of Moscow’s Choral Synagogue, something that would have been unthinkable only a short time ago.
“Things that were repressed for so long are now being reborn,” said the choir’s musical director, Mikhail Turetsky, introducing the program, titled “Shabbat Prayer.”
He said no more. The audience understood the message, even though there were few in the audience who understood the Hebrew beyond, perhaps, the occasional mention of “Yerushalayim” in the mixed program of cantorial and secular music.
The 18-member choir, which sings regularly at Moscow’s largest synagogue, has existed for just under three years, with support from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. It has performed in the United States, Israel, Britain and France. Its members are mostly non-professional vocalists.