Home News 100 Jewish cantors to sing in historic concert in Poland

100 Jewish cantors to sing in historic concert in Poland

Published on 27/06/2009

Warsaw -- One hundred Jewish cantors from around the globe will sing in an unprecedented concert in Warsaw next week, reviving the art of Jewish liturgical song virtually wiped out in Poland by the Holocaust, organisers said Thursday.

"Prior to the Second World War, this (Warsaw) was the capital of the cantorial world… a few hundred metres from this place was the Tlomackie synagogue and that was the ‘cantorial Vatican’, if you will," said cantor Nathan Lam, 62, from Los Angeles, California, speaking in the concert venue, Poland’s National Opera in Warsaw.

Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish population prior to World War II — some 3.5 million people, with a rich history of nearly a thousand years of Jewish life and culture in the country.

Historians agree that some six million Polish citizens perished under Nazi German occupation during WWII, half of them Jewish. Six million European Jews fell victim to Nazi German genocide in the Holocaust.

"To come back to this place … almost 60 years later, with the largest number of cantors since the Shoah — it’s returning home and saying this music is still alive and well," said Lam, whose grandparents were Polish Jews from the Warsaw area.

Cantors from around the globe including the US, Canada, various European countries and Israel are to take part in the June 30th performance.

"We’re here to honour this tradition and to perpetuate this tradition in the place where it was born — we’re very excited about that," Lam told AFP.

"We know that almost 1,400 cantors perished in the Holocaust, today some 60 years later we are not even near getting to those numbers — so our numbers have fallen tremendously," David Propis, a cantor from Houston, Texas, told AFP Thursday.

"Doing this kind of outreach will hopefully energise the love of cantorial music and bring it back to its roots and I hope those numbers will grow," Propis said.

"We’re also thanking all of those who helped in one of our darkest periods (the Holocaust)," he said.