Baltimore, MD - Mar. 29, 2016 - On the Sunday before Purim, members of Congregation Tiferes Yisroel (Rabbi Goldberger’s Shul) and several hundred friends and supporters came together for a very special concert in celebration of the congregation’s thirtieth anniversary. The evening’s honorees were longstanding TY members Ken and Chana Birnbaum and Dr. Jerry and Elka Rottman. World renowned composer/singer Eitan Katz and his band gave an uplifting performance of Katz’s original melodies, as well as tunes from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and Rabbi Goldberger, joined on stage for a time by Rabbi Menachem Goldberger himself, and by the Rabbi’s son Rabbi Yehuda Leib Goldberger.
Preliminary remarks were given by the evening’s witty M.C. (or, as he preferred, “N.C.—Not Compensated”), TY board member and veteran Purim spieler Saul Passe, who thanked the event’s chairs, Rebbetzin Bracha Goldberger, Caryn Blum, and Esther Weiner, the journal chair, Glenna Ross, and the many other volunteers who contributed to the evening, before turning the proceedings over to the Rabbi. The Rabbi and Rebbetzin presented the honorees with gifts, and the Rabbi recognized the Rottmans and the Birnbaums, all members for over 25 years, for having been instrumental in fostering the atmosphere and growth of the shul. Chana Birnbaum has long been a member of the shul chesed committee, and Elka Rottman is currently co-president of the Sisterhood. The Rabbi mentioned that the Rottmans and the Goldbergers davened together early in their married lives, in the home of Rabbi Shloime Twerski ztz’l, in Denver.
Ken Birnbaum recalled King Achashverosh’s obsession with the Jews, and said that Purim exemplifies our history: that despite our enemies, we survive and grow stronger. He called TY “our beit hamikdash” and the Rabbi and Rebbetzin “our conduit for guiding us and our prayers.”
Dr. Jerry Rottman, who as a boy enjoyed the music in Rabbi Goldberger’s father’s shul in Denver, said he is proud to tell people he davens at Rabbi Goldberger’s Shul, which he compared to the Kosel. In both places, he said, there is always a very diverse group of Jews, yet people get along, and there is a peaceful feeling. Many people in both places are on a journey, in search of something. At the Kosel you get to know which are the nicest minyanim, he said; he prefers the ones with good singing, and that is how TY is. In fact, like the Kosel, TY is “a destination for people on the road looking for important Jewish places”; one often sees new people there who have heard about the place and want to experience it.
In his introduction to the evening’s music, the Rabbi remarked that there is an ongoing war between the body, or guf, and the soul, the neshama, and that as Jews we are striving for the neshama’s spiritual essence to overcome the body’s physical drives, and to refine ourselves and become closer to Hashem in that process. Yet, he said, there are times when the neshama’s conquest of the guf occurs through a more harmonious process. Shabbos is one example, when the body is elevated through shalom. Another example is through music that has its source in kedusha, holiness; the neshama calls out to the body, and the body responds with a yearning to be elevated. “That’s the opportunity we have here tonight,” the Rabbi said, welcoming Eitan Katz, a personal friend and “a musician who knows these things.”
Before he began playing, Eitan Katz took time to say with evident emotion what an exceptional honor it was to perform for Rabbi Goldberger and his kehilla. A hush fell over the hall as many people with their own reasons for gratitude to the Rabbi and Rebbetzin listened to the performer summon the words to express a shared feeling: “When I say that it’s an honor, it means something a lot deeper. It’s mamash the biggest zchus in the world,” he said. He confided that the Rabbi had reached out to offer chizuk to him and his wife in a difficult time, and that this created a special bond.
Backed by a band that included percussion, bass, violin, and Baltimore’s own Nossi Gross on saxophone and flute, Katz started off the evening’s musical journey with Shlomo Carlebach’s “U’vnai Yerushalaim,” followed by several of his own songs, including a nigun he said was written the day before, as well as “L’Maancha,” “Boruch Hu,” “Shuvu,” and “Elul Nigun.” Rabbi Goldberger joined him on stage for a performance of the Rabbi’s own “Lecha Dodi” and “Yehi Ratzon,” known to many from the Rabbi’s CD, Lecha Dodi, released in 2004, with the Rabbi’s son Rabbi Yehuda Leib Goldberger, a frequent baal tefilla at Tiferes Yisroel, harmonizing on “Yehi Ratzon.” Katz continued with several more Carlebach melodies, including “Od Yishama” and “Viyitnu Lecha Keser Melucha,” as well as “Am Yisrael Chai” and “Lishuascha,” interspersing the songs with informal repartee in the Purim spirit. There was enthusiastic dancing in the aisles, and the crowd sang along on several numbers.
“I thought it was a beautiful night,” Rabbi Goldberger said later. “It was a highlight evening for both the Rebbetzin and myself, and for our kehilla. It was uplifting, joyous, meaningful. There was a lot of achdus in the room. Those are things that we strive for in our own lives and in the community that we lead. Eitan Katz’s music, humor, and presence took us to that place.”
Shloime Schor, a member of Tiferes Yisroel, said he appreciated how Eitan Katz and his band “showed up in a really powerful way,” bringing the energy of Shlomo Carlebach to life, and said that Rabbi Goldberger and his son showed that they are “fully capable of their own professional-quality performance.”
Deidra Zussman, Director of Women’s Outreach at the Etz Chaim Center and a member of Tiferes Yisroel, said, “One of the best things about the concert was that you could tell how honestly Eitan Katz really loves Rabbi Goldberger. It made the concert so special. I hope they do the concert again every year. I'm sure it will just get bigger and better. Now that I've gone once, I'd pay more for better seats next year!”
Rumor has it her wish may come true, b’ezras Hashem.
Photo Credit: Lev Avraham Rosenstock