Thursday, December 29, 2005

Responsa: May a Cantor Appear in Major Roles at an Opera House?

o o o o o
| | | || | | | | Happy 4th day
\ \ \ \|/ / / / of Chanukkah
\ | | ||| | | / and my last full day in NYC

I stumbled on this quite randomly at This is Rabbi Louis Ginzberg, of blessed memory, responding (in the form of Responsa) to the following: (my favorite stuff is bolded)
May a Cantor Appear in Major Roles at an Opera House?

No. 1 ? (OH 53:25)
Source: General Files, File 13 (1944)

October 16, 1944

Dear Doctor Levinthal:1
I am in receipt of your letter of October 12, in which you ask my advice whether it would be proper for your Congregation to have its Cantor appear in important roles at the Metropolitan Opera House.

There is, of course, no special law incumbent upon a cantor.2 He is to be a good Jew, but so also are his Congregants. Yet, while there is no specific prohibition in Jewish law which would prevent a cantor from serving in the synagogue while at the same time appearing in the opera, I do not think that the combination of a cantor and an opera singer is a very healthy one. There is no law prohibiting a rabbi from appearing in a cabaret, but do you think that any congregation would seriously consider having a cabaret singer as a rabbi? Of course, I am quite aware of the fact that certain music may serve very high cultural purposes. Yet, I am, at the same time, sure that people would find it quite strange to see their cantor one day recite the Neilah prayer and the following day sing a love duet with some lady. My advice is therefore that you try your utmost to prevent your Cantor from accepting the offer made to him by the Metropolitan.3

With kindest regards to you, Mrs. Levinthal, and to the children in which Mrs. Ginzberg joins me, I am

Very sincerely yours,

Louis Ginzberg

1Doctor Israel Levinthal
Brooklyn Jewish Center
667 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, New York

Rabbi Israel Levinthal (1888-1982) was ordained by the Seminary in 1910 and served the Brooklyn Jewish Center from its founding in 1919 for over sixty years. See EJ, XI, col. 121; Nadell, pp. 174-176; and Elliot Gertel, PRA 45 (1983), pp. 119-137. He appears in a photo with LG in Keeper, on the seventh page of photos after p. 214.

2This is not entirely accurate. See OH 53:4ff. and Leo Landman, The Cantor: an Historic Perspective, New York 1972, pp. 58-64, 110-113, for the attributes sought in a cantor.

3The cantor in question was Cantor Richard Tucker (1913-75), who served as cantor at the Brooklyn Jewish Center between 1943 and 1945. In 1945 he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera House. Tucker wanted to remain as cantor at the Brooklyn Jewish Center. But, on the recommendation of a panel of five rabbis (by a vote of three to two), he resigned his post there (Darryl Lyman, Great Jews in Music, New York 1986, pp. 229-230). LG was apparently one of the five rabbis asked.

Source: The Responsa of Professor Louis Ginzberg edited by David Golinkin.

Chag Urim Sameach,

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A new interesting AIM buddy

So I met someone interesting today... the Chief Rabbi of Poland. Now he's on my buddy list. So, instead of hearing the author of "Jew vs. Jew", Samuel Friedman at Ramath Orah this morning, I sat next to one of the most important Jews in eastern Europe in the past 50 years during davening at Old Broadway Shul (though at that point I had no idea he was even a Rabbi). This will make for an interesting conversation piece on Monday in Yiddish class when the professor asks "tzi menchen hobn nayes?" Vel ich enferen, "yo, hob ich nayes: vei ich dem Groyser Rav fun Poyln. Booyakasha!"

Friday, November 25, 2005

I'd do it like this: Rutta Chugga! Rutta Chugga!

Oh dear God!!! I'm horrified.

Happy turducken/tofurkey day

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Yay, I'm a citizen.. still and Butler hyjinx

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

Adam Baldachin just got engaged. Whoa! That led to interesting discussion in Butler at midnight. This included myself, perhaps jokingly (or perhaps not...) proposing to Anna Schon, who said yes. Either that or if neither of us are engaged in a week to other people, we'll get married.

Anna: I'm not not having sex until then
Me: So you are having sex until then? That's a double negative!
On back-up engagement at age 40 (or a week from now, which ever's more convenient)

Another bold beautiful Barnard woman (or is it womyn) who wished to remain nameless to someone else who probably wants to remain nameless: Hey, you don't get to smack my ass, only I get to smack my ass.

I went to bed at 4 AM and woke up at 6:30 for Koach Rosh Chodesh services. So exhausted and I still have to finish this paper...

Chodesh Tov,

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


With lack of any other ideas, I think I'm going to reprise my Michael Moore costume tonight. I'm probably going down to the Village. Here's my current away message, a transliterated Yiddish one: Heint is a chogeg fun di catolike mentchen, un epes tragen maseychus, ober nisht c'mo Mordechai un Ester, ober machsheyfus un ruchos. Efsher ich vel zaynen tzu dem Shtetl Greenwich.
-Out of boredom I wrote something in Yiddish about Halloween

"Today is a holiday for the Catholics, and some wear masks, but not such as Mordechai and Esther, but witches and ghosts. I might go to Greenwich Village."

EDIT 11/1/05 12:24 AM: Nope, surprise birthday costume party and then a night of debauchered paper-writing in Butler

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Quiz Stuff (out of sheer boredom)

la2nyc Highway
Study Hall3
Lake Love17
Confusion Lane492
Please Drive Carefully

Where are you on the highway of life?


Friday, October 28, 2005

Short blurb about Simchat Torah

Just wanted to say I LOVE getting Trashed with the Tribe...

...that and Shacharit Placards don't work.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Maccabee Tel Aviv

I would have to say that my Yom Kippur was the easiest fast on record for me. This includes the previous week's Fast of Gedaliah, a minor fast for which I ate and drank immediately before dawn at around 6 AM. The easiness of the Yom Kippur fast may be attributed to the fact that I was in shul from 8:30 AM to Neilah, almost 11 hours and therefore wasn't anywhere near drink or food. I wasn't feeling the normal "Neilah-nillies" and could have probably gone on comfortably for quite awhile longer. I'm pretty confident I made it in the Book of Life.

On Sunday we took a trip to the Lower East Side to buy Lulavim. Due to the Lulav shortage this year, as well as the fact that it is October and harder to come by so late in the season, I feared there would not be a good selection. My luck was VERY good and I lucked out on each of the elements of the lulav I purchased. My aravot (willows) are still green AND attached, my hadas (myrtle) is not diseased and smells nice, my lulav is still long, hard and straight (oh, shut up...) , and my etrog, the first that I saw at the stand, mind you, is unique, beautiful and has the greatest smell that has ever emanated from a citron. I am reminded however of the Israeli movie Ushpizin and I live in fear that two chilonim will eat my beautiful etrog. Not really but that was an amazing film. Go see it...

However, the fun story is that I may not have had that etrog. Due to a miscommunication in which I thought the etrog I put in a large box with a group of people was going to be brought up to school by someone else. I left it in the box, went to lunch with a couple of people, and headed for the subway. As I was about to go on the train, I asked the the person who I thought took it for my etrog. She said she didn't take my etrog. I ran back on Essex street, and sure enough, the vendor still had it with my name written on it. This was scary but it all worked out in the end. Also, I didn't have to pay the fare for the subway again as the people in the booth recognized me as the person who ran out before getting on a train.

Sukkot has been great so far. Two dinners at JTS and one successful KOACH lunch later, and here we are at the first day of chol hamoed. I must say that I really enjoy Etrog Liqueur.

On a sad note, Baruch Dayan Haemet on the death of Rabbi David Kogen, a friend and the former roommate of my Grandfather in Rabbinical School.

I thought this was really cool:

Maccabi TA beats NBA's Toronto Raptors 105-103 in exhibition game

By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors became the first NBA team to lose to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 27 years when Anthony Parker's jumper with 0.8 seconds left lifted the Israeli club over Toronto 105-103 on Sunday.

Parker, who played in the NBA for Philadelphia and Orlando, had 24 points. Croatia's Nikola Vujcic added 21 points and 10 rebounds for Maccabi, the Euroleague champion.

Chris Bosh had 27 points and 12 rebounds in 45 minutes, and Jalen Rose had 18 points in 41 minutes for Toronto.

Maccabi hadn't beaten an NBA team since 1978 when they knocked off the
then-champion Washington Bullets. They had lost nine straight before holding off the Raptors, who played their starters most of the way.

Maccabi's Yaniv Green blocked Rose's layup attempt and Mike James' jumper before Will Solomon gave Tel Aviv a 95-93 lead with a 3-pointer - their first lead since the first quarter.

James' driving layup tied it at 103 with 19 seconds left.

But Parker - isolated with Morris Peterson guarding him- made a jumper with a hand in his face to give Maccabi the lead. Peterson missed a long 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

Toronto is expected to be one of the weaker teams in its league this season, and the team is still in the first stages of training for the year. Maccabi, on the other hand, will begin its season in Israel in earnest next week. All eight of Maccabi's exhibition games so far have ended in a win for the Tel Aviv team.

However, the win proves that the difference in the level of play between Europe and the NBA is negligible, compared to past seasons.

Many of the 17,281 in attendance were fans of Maccabi Tel Aviv. The consular general for Israel in Toronto slapped hands and joined the team in the celebration as NBA commissioner David Stern hurriedly walked off the court.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

So I caved and finally created a blog. I'm pretty sure I created one a couple of years ago but never used it and can't even remember where it was hosted or what username I created, et al. I also had a DeadJournal (and later a LiveJournal) for a couple of years which was basically a blog, I guess. There was also CUCommunity/CampusNetwork, of which I was a regular contributor, an elite member, in fact. Hopefully this blog gets some use. I'm not feeling the Ruach HaKodesh right now to write, so I just submit this short introduction to the things I no longer use.