Johannesburg’s Sydenham Shul, under the leadership of veteran Shliach Rabbi Yossy Goldman, just successfully staged the single biggest concert in the history of the South African Jewish community.
On Thursday 3 July, Carnival City had every one of its 3500 seats occupied as people clamored for tickets to the show dubbed “Shwekey Rocks the City” which featured American singers Yaakov Shwekey and Baruch Levine.
Chazan Yudi Cohen of Sydenham Shul opened the show with a powerful rendition of Yossele Rosenblatt‘s famous Hamavdil.
Yochi Briskman came from New York and conducted a 22-piece Orchestra, which included three top musicians from Israel in addition to lots of local talent plus South African maestro and virtuoso keyboard player Bryan Schimmel.
Carnival City really did rock as the Big Top Arena reverberated to the pulsating sounds of Jewish music. There were, however, moments of quiet, sombre emotion too, as everyone remembered the three slain teenagers from Israel, Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, HY”D.
There were not many dry eyes in the crowd as images of the three kedoshim accompanied Shwekey’s new song, Kolot. “Their voices were silenced. They are now still. Let us raise our voices for them. Hashem Yinkom Domom,” declared the singer on stage.
A highlight and real crowd-pleaser were the duets of Shwekey and Baruch Levine singing together. Refuah Shleimah and V’hu Keili went down particularly well.
Being so distant from the major centers of Jewish life, South African Jews feel somewhat culturally deprived and are starved for international Jewish musical artists.
The community truly feels indebted to Sydenham Shul and its talented team of organizers, which, in addition to Rabbi Goldman, consisted of Nachi Kay, and Stanley and Ingrid Seeff.
Sydenham Shul’s Associate Rav, Rabbi Yehuda Stern, led a team of volunteers who got the marketing effort to go viral which was instrumental in filling the large venue.
“Thank you for bringing these artists to South Africa!” was a popular sentiment expressed by many faithful fans. Others raved about the event being nothing less than a rare “Kiddush Hashem!”
Last year Sydenham Shul brought out Benny Friedman and Gad Elbaz. Speculation is already mounting as to whom they will be bringing out next year. Stay tuned.
Photos: Joffie Berkowitz