The Arty Semite

Itzhak Perlman in the Cantor's House

By Jon Kalish

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images

It’s the Itzhak and Yitzchok show! Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman is teaming up with cantorial superstar Yitzchok Meir Helfgot for a concert tour and recording project titled “The Soul of Jewish Music.” The inaugural concert takes place March 30 at the Saban Theatre in Los Angeles and will benefit Bet Tzedek Holocaust Survivors Justice Network.

The collaboration is Perlman’s first foray into Jewish music since “In the Fiddler’s House,” his klezmer tour and recordings in the mid-1990s. In a press release from L.A.-based producer Dan Adler, Perlman gushes that teaming up with Helfgot is an “historic project” and declares, “It excites me to my kishkas!”

For the uninitiated, Helfgot is chief cantor at Park East Synagogue in Manhattan and a globe-trotting performer. He has been dubbed the “Jewish Pavarotti.” Perlman declared: “Helfgot can do anything.” In a video on YouTube that includes rehearsal footage shot in Perlman’s Manhattan home, Helfgot refers to the master violinist as the “Kohen Gadol of music today.”

According to the project’s musical director, Boston-based bandleader and college professor Hankus Netsky, the repertoire will consist of hazanus, Hasidic, Yiddish theater and klezmer compositions. Netsky told The Arty Semite that Perlman’s wife Toby hipped the great violinist to Helfgot’s operatic abilities and Perlman, who has been listening to cantorial music all his life, was floored by the great cantor’s voice. Perlman grew up in Israel listening to cantors on the radio and refers to hazanus as his Jewish comfort music.

Netsky, a multi-instrumentalist who chose members of his Klezmer Conservatory Band of Boston to back Perlman and Helfgot, said all of the principals are stretching a bit to make this work.

“For Helfgot, it’s an opportunity to delve into repertoire that he would probably never do,” said Netsky. “And for Perlman, it’s a chance to really lead the way on a Jewish music project without having to defer to any outside ‘experts.’ For me, it’s a chance to take on the cantorial tradition as a piece of the Jewish roots music continuum, as something cut from the same cloth as klezmer and badkhones — but with more of an artistic intention. After all, the shul was the only theater and concert hall the Jews had for a very long time, and these texts are serious poetry.”

Netsky mentioned a few of the songs on the set list: Abraham Goldfaden’s “Shoyfer Shel Moshiakh,” Moyshe Oysher’s “Hassidic in America” and the Modzizter Hasid Ben-Zion Schenker’s “Mizmor L’Dovid.” Adler, the producer, said Perlman and Helfgot will record an album after Pesach and a tour of North America and the world will commence in the fall or winter.

Watch a rehearsal for ‘The Soul of Jewish Music’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Abraham Goldfaden, Ben-Zion Schenker, Yitzchok Meir Helfgot, Yiddish Music, Yiddish, The Soul of Jewish Music, Saban Theatre, Park East Synagogue, Music, Moyshe Oysher, Klezmer Conservatory Band, Klezmer, Jon Kalish, Itzhak Perlman, In the Fiddler's House, Hazanus, Hankus Netsky, Cantorial Music

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.