Rabbis and cantors from the Shabbaton Choir in north London have just returned from a five-day trip to Israel, after singing at 17 events across the country.
Among those on the whirlwind tour were Marble Arch’s Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld, Stanmore’s Chazan Jonny Turgel and Shimon Craimer from Riverdale in New York. They were joined by outgoing Board of Deputies’ president Jonathan Arkush.
The singers entertained both paediatric and geriatric patients at the Laniado Hospital and Dorot Medical Centre in Netanya and the Reuth Medical Centre in Tel Aviv.
From there they went to Bet Moriah in Be’er Sheva to sing and dance with children from neglected backgrounds and abusive homes, before later lifting the spirits of disabled war veterans at the Beit Halochem centre in the Negev.
The next day, at Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, patients emerged from their rooms on all floors to clap along as they looked down to the bottom floor of the atrium where the choir performed, together with boy soloists Rafi Sweiry and James Hart.
Among those to hear the performance at Hadassah was an anxious mother and father whose child was about to go in for dangerous surgery following a terror-related injury.
On the choir’s final day they sang to retirees in Protea Village in Shoresh and from there concluded their mission, which was headed by choir chairman Simon Hochhauser, by traveling down south to Ashkelon.
There they sang to the parents of Avera Mengistu, an Ethiopian Jew with mental health difficulties who walked from his home to cross the Gaza border fence in 2014, where he was captured by Hamas. He has been held captive ever since.
“We’ve done some incredible things over the past week and I am really hopeful we can raise awareness of the work we did and more importantly the incredible work these charities and organisations in Israel do,” said Turgel.
Organisers paid tribute to the choir’s “inspirational” and “talented” musical director, Stephen Levey as a driving force behind the trip.
In a tweet, Arkush said: “It has been an inspiration to join @ShabbatonChoir for 4 days of performances bringing a little joy and comfort to hundreds of very unwell and disadvantaged people from all backgrounds in Israel. One of the UK Jewish community’s finest exports and they should make us proud.”