Jewish Cantors Celebrate Hanukkah With Virtual Concerts Jewish cantors in Wisconsin are celebrating Hanukkah in a new way during the pandemic: They will gather virtually and broadcast a concert of holiday music for audiences across the country.
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Jewish Cantors Celebrate Hanukkah With Virtual Concerts

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Jewish Cantors Celebrate Hanukkah With Virtual Concerts

Jewish Cantors Celebrate Hanukkah With Virtual Concerts

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We are midway through Hanukkah. The Jewish Festival of Lights this year falls in the darkest time of a dark year. Days are short and the pandemic is worsening. But some cantors in Wisconsin have come to the rescue. They've been hosting virtual concerts of Hanukkah favorites as Maayan Silver of member station WUWM in Milwaukee reports.

MAAYAN SILVER, BYLINE: Light is the central theme of Hanukkah. Milwaukee Cantor David Barash explains.

DAVID BARASH: The story that many people know is that there was only enough oil for one day to kind of - to keep the temple illuminated, and miraculously the oil lasted for eight days.

SILVER: The holiday commemorates the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem. And people gather around the table at home, sing songs, light candles and exchange gifts. This year, as they avoid synagogue or inviting over family, cantors around the country are stepping in with virtual Hanukkah concerts, like one tonight featuring about a dozen cantors from around Wisconsin, including Faith Steinsnyder and David Perper. Here they are talking about the original version of "Ma'oz Tzur," a Hanukkah classic.

FAITH STEINSNYDER: Well, the traditional Ashkenazic melody is so old, it's - what? - 500 years old, maybe 400 years old - would be (singing in non-English language).

SILVER: "Ma'oz Tzur" means rock of ages and is about the rock of salvation that's been there for the Jews in every age.

STEINSNYDER: (Singing in non-English language) Because on the candlebox, right? The old box so the people would remember, whether they could sing (singing in non-English language) (singing) that would be something around every Jewish table.

Or as my family would have sung it, perhaps - (singing in non-English language).

DAVID PERPER: (Laughter) Is that a Philadelphia thing? I don't know.

STEINSNYDER: But that's OK too.

SILVER: The Wisconsin cantors will be jointly performing a third version, sung separately and pieced together by a sound engineer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MA'OZ TZUR")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in non-English language).

SILVER: Perper says it's a good time for music that speaks to the soul.

PERPER: To sing with our colleagues and to bring all those communities together - that's the great part. People are inviting their friends because we all need this.

SILVER: Cantor David Barash agrees.

BARASH: Judaism is built on community - to have services, to come together to do social action projects - whatever it is, we do this as a community. Most of our prayers are structured in the plural.

SILVER: Barash is singing a song called "Al HaNissim," a celebratory piece about the miracles of deliverance.

BARASH: (Singing in non-English language).

SILVER: Tonight, Barash says anyone can log on at 7 p.m. Central Time to hear the concert.

BARASH: So it's bit.ly/cantorsfriends.

(Singing in non-English language).

SILVER: Barash says, in a time of renewed adversity, this is one way the Jewish people are adapting. For NPR News, I'm Maayan Silver in Milwaukee.

BARASH: (Singing in non-English language).

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