Abiya Beit Midrash community center opens new perspectives for ultra-Orthodox young people who are curious about what goes on beyond their sector.
Musician Sinai Tor (C) plays at the Abiya Beit Midrash community center, Jerusalem, Dec. 21, 2017.
On a chilly December evening in Jerusalem, Yitzhak, a young ultra-Orthodox man, and a few of his friends stand outside the Abiya Beit Midrash, a community center and study hall, waiting for the musical event to begin. In the small hall, Sinai Tor tunes the instruments as he plays the beginning of a well-known Jewish song in a progressive jazz arrangement.
As the music starts, the hall slowly fills up. At first, the young men sit with their arms crossed but soon they start moving their heads to the sound of the music; some start clapping and by the end everyone sings at the top of their lungs. “I felt as if I was floating on a cloud,” Yitzhak, who asked that his real name not be used, told Al-Monitor after the performance.
The event at Abiya Beit Midrash on Dec. 21 marked the opening of a music education initiative that brings together young ultra-Orthodox people who want to learn more about music trends and instruments. The program is run by volunteer instructors and includes jazz jam sessions. The plan is that these musical evenings become a regular activity at the community center, in addition to music education, art classes and professional training.
Abiya Beit Midrash is a community center founded in 2014 that provides training, activities and support for young ultra-Orthodox men who prefer to leave the usual path of the yeshivot (rabbinical seminaries) to which the ultra-Orthodox direct their sons. The center enrolls young men ages 18-25, some with families and most of whom work. They have in common a thirst to get to know life beyond the yeshiva and the closed ultra-Orthodox community.
One of the leading activists at the center told Al-Monitor that the growing sector of new ultra-Orthodox, particularly those who have integrated into the job market, are ready for intellectual openness as they are more engaged in Israeli society. This, in turn, has created a greater desire for professional development and knowledge of culture, spiritualism and society.
Most of the performers at ultra-Orthodox events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs or special gatherings with rabbis are not ultra-Orthodox themselves. And so, for instance, a young ultra-Orthodox person who wishes to study music must take private lessons outside the community or learn by himself, which often ends in abandoning one’s dream.
Yisrael Stern, an ultra-Orthodox musician, was born into a family of the Lithuanian stream, a relatively closed community that insists its sons study in yeshivot. He told Al-Monitor that to his great fortune, his parents noticed his love for music. At the age of 14, they allowed him to study music with a private teacher, and he played the organ and the guitar until he got to the yeshiva for students of post-high school age. The heads of the yeshiva did not like it and he had to continue studying by himself.
“In the Hasidic ultra-Orthodox sector, people know how to sing and be happy and they receive me better there,” he said. “In the Lithuanian sector where I grew up, it’s much harder; Torah study is the greatest and almost singular value, and nothing must disrupt it — not even music.”
Today, Stern makes a living playing at events and giving private lessons, and he is one of the instructors at the ultra-Orthodox musical venture at Abiya Beit Midrash. “I want to give young people what I had a very hard time getting — the opportunity to learn music and to play an instrument in a respectable and comfortable place for a young ultra-Orthodox person.”
During the event, two young ultra-Orthodox men enter, rifles hanging from their shoulders. They are soldiers on leave, and for most at the event the servicemen are a novelty, as many ultra-Orthodox young people are exempt from serving in the Israeli army.
Yisrael Kushmirsky, who helped found the center and is its director, told Al-Monitor that it serves as a home for yeshiva outcasts — those who have a hard time withstanding the long days of study or who do not fit in the regular ultra-Orthodox settings. Some of them are ostracized by their families, especially if they enlisted in the army, and Abiya Beit Midrash offers a variety of support, such as providing a cultural community, helping the young men to find homes or to receive professional training and music lessons.
Kushmirsky said another group of young people who visit the center are “regular” ultra-Orthodox who seek a little more than their closed world of the Torah. The demand for culture is great, especially for music. None of the events are accessible to women and the music events only include lyrics that are considered appropriate and modest, most of which are from the holy books and prayers.
He characterizes the average young ultra-Orthodox man who comes to the center as a person with fully ultra-Orthodox values and mentality, but with a different cultural horizon, who seeks to open up to general knowledge and a wider culture. Some of the young men listen to music in secret, some of them try to learn to play by themselves and the lucky ones are able to pay for private lessons. The center provides them a setting that is appropriate and accessible to them.
Kushmirsky said that Abiya Beit Midrash receives virtually no institutional support — neither at a local nor national level. The Jerusalem municipality and government ministries do not support the center. Lacking support and funding, they have no capacity to establish a professional ultra-Orthodox school of music, so the initiative depends on volunteers. Regardless, dozens of young men have signed up to participate, some of them with musical experience while others are merely curious and are interested in music.
Jazz improvisation, the various ensembles and the jam sessions that create a rhythmic musical conversation can work well with this ultra-Orthodox musical format: amateurish, volunteer-based, a place to satisfy a dream, curiosity and desire, where in daily life practitioners find themselves harnessed to a scrupulous ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.
At the end of the evening, a song by Arik Einstein plays. Considered one of Israel’s greatest singers, he died four years ago. Einstein was not ultra-Orthodox and the tribute attests to a growing connection of ultra-Orthodox young people to the broader Israeli experience while they attempt to maintain an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.
Nov 27, 2019 0
(Photo: Aish.com / YouTube)
Despite advances in modern medicine, China is setting up roadblocks to cope with an outbreak of an ancient plague that once wiped out one-third of the world’s population and may have been one of the plagues that God used to strike Egypt.
Chinese officials installed temperature scanners at airports and checkpoints on main roads in an attempt to stop the spread of Bubonic plague as a fourth case was discovered in less than three weeks. A program to exterminate rats and fleas, which carry the disease, was also launched in Inner Mongolia where the disease seems to be originating.
Demonstrators gather in solidarity with anti-regime protests in Iran outside the Iranian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Reuters / Lehtikuva / Heikki Saukkomaa.
Four human rights lawyers currently imprisoned by the Iranian regime have been awarded with the annual prize of Europe’s most prestigious lawyers’ association.
The Iranian lawyers received the 2019 Human Rights Award from The Council of Bars and Law Societies Of Europe (CCBE) — a body that represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries and through them more than 1 million European lawyers.
The University of Bristol campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Bristol in England has adopted “in full” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the school’s Epigram independent student newspaper reported on Monday.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Bristol’s Jewish Society (J-Soc) welcomed the move, saying, “The University of Bristol has not been free of antisemitic incidents and the adoption of this definition is an important first step in helping the university tackle anti-Jewish racism. We now expect the university to use this definition in outstanding disciplinary cases.”
Pope Francis Meets Thailand’s Buddhist Patriarch in Golden Temple (screenshot)
Pope Francis topped off his three-day visit to Thailand last Saturday with a meeting with Thailand’s supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at Bangkok’s Ratchabophit Temple. The meeting took place in front of a 150-year-old gold statue of Buddha. The Pope followed Buddhist custom by removing his shoes.
During the meeting, the Pope gave the Buddhist Patriarch the Declaration on Human Brotherhood. The Declaration s a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, last February in Abu Dhabi. The Pope met with the Imam last month to reinforce the Declaration.
An Israeli company says it is using space travel technology to help solve one of the most pressing problems down on Earth — the reliance on diesel fuel, a major source of pollution.
Israeli startup GenCell has developed an electric generator based on a hydrogen-energy technology used to power some of the most-famous space missions in history.
The verse (Deuteronomy 6:4) Shema Yisrael – “Hear Oh Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One” – is understood to (in Wikipedia’s words) “encapsulate the monotheistic essence of Judaism.” It’s understood to be a declaration not only there is one and only one God, but also that God’s oneness is all-inclusive. God includes every particle of existence is within Him. God is not just ruling over the world. God encompasses the world. Time and space and all of us are within God. Nothing stands outside of God’s Oneness, and God encompasses all existence equally
Watching events unfold in Israel is an experience in split-screen living. On the right side of the screen is the chaos outside our gates, in neighboring lands. And on the left side of the screen is the chaos inside.
On the left side of the screen on Tuesday, 15,000 Israelis gathered Tuesday evening outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to demand legal justice for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the face of what they view as an anti-democratic usurpation of political power by Israel’s legal fraternity.
It hard to believe that two weeks ago, Israel was on the brink of war. With the Palestinian Islamic Jihad firing nearly 500 missiles from Gaza into Israel within a 48-hour period, even Tel Aviv was put on alert and certain train routes were canceled. My mind immediately raced to a Christian group I was going to host for Shabbat in Jerusalem Israel – Pastor Leroy Armstrong of Proclaiming the Word Ministries.
Turkey’s little remarked on but ongoing mistreatment of historic churches is increasingly reflective of that nation’s growing sense of Islamic supremacism.
Before the Turks invaded it, Anatolia (present day Turkey) was an ancient Christian region; a large chunk of St. Paul’s epistles were sent to or dealt with its churches, including the seven of the Apocalypse. With the Turks’ conquest, colonization, and subsequent Turkification of Anatolia—hence why it’s now simply called “Turkey”—tens of thousands of churches were systematically desecrated and turned into victory mosques.
Sorek was the grandson of a Rabbi who survived the Holocaust, and was universally described as a kind, gentle soul. His funeral was interrupted by Palestinians shooting off fireworks celebrating his murder.
Two terrorists, including one affiliated with Hamas were arrested for the murder. And at the time, Hamas said in a statement, “We salute the hero fighters, sons of our people, who carried out the heroic operation which killed a soldier of the occupation army,” Hamas said in a statement. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad also hailed the killing as “heroic and bold.”