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A Night for Israel

November 1, 2023

On October 12, almost a week after the murderous rampage on Israeli society by Hamas terrorists, the Montreal community came together for ‘A Night for Israel.’ Hosted by Cantor Gideon Zelermyer from Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, over 600 online viewers watched recorded performances of powerful songs, bringing everyone together in a sentiment of peace and hope.

Looking ashen and distracted, the chazzan spoke on autopilot. “Tonight is about community,” he said. “Community, friendship and being uplifted in these difficult times.”

‘A Night for Israel’ was a quick pivot from the originally planned ‘A Night at the Opera’ series. The revised evening provided a needed “break from the relentless news cycle” and a shared sense of emotional overwhelm.

Ayn millim (‘there are no words’).

But sometimes, when words can’t heal the wounded soul, music can. 

First was Avinu Shebashamayim, a prayer for the State of Israel. Powerful lyrics included “Shield it with your love, spread over it the shelter of your peace,” a message held tight in all hearts and minds.

It was followed by Aneinu, typically recited on Kol Nidre (the evening before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). “Even in the midst of tragedy, prayers can be heard and answered,” reinforced Cantor Zelermyer. “Prayers for the broken-hearted, the widows and the orphans- and there are a lot of them these days. We’d like for them to be heard.”

The lyrics of, “Answer us, you who answers in times of trouble. Answer us, you who redeems us, you who support the innocent,” resounded with the direct attacks on civilians.

The program continued with Hatikvah (Israel’s national anthem, ‘The Hope’) performed by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Watching the young soldiers, barely adults, donning helmets and equipment, to protect and defend while bravely singing about hope, was heart-wrenching yet empowering. They could be - and are - anyone’s son, brother, sister, cousin. Watching their courage and commitment, “Makes you want to stand up and wave the kachol v’lavan(blue and white Israeli flag) as high and as hard as you can,” stated the Cantor.

Foremost in many minds are those taken as hostages. Whole families, young adults, Holocaust survivors- “We pray that all of the captives be returned safe, whole and soon,” the Cantor said, eyes focused and fervent. 

‘Bring them home b’shalom (in peace).”

He shared the Hebrew rendition of “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables, originally sung as an anthem when Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken captive (2006-2011).[1] The first stirring moments of “G-d on high, hear my prayer,” sent a chill through all. 

Shomer Israel (guard Israel) was accompanied by the Loh Teidai Milchama (Israel should no longer know war), finishing with a firm, “Loh. Tei. Dai.”

In thanking all for participating, Cantor Zelermyer reminded, “Israel should no longer know war. But until then, we have a lot of work to do, a lot of prayers to say.”

He left the audience with this message. “May our children and grandchildren one day live in a world where Israel is at peace. Pray for Israel. We have kept up hope for thousands of years- Don’t stop now.”


[1] Only released years later in exchange for 1000 Palestinian prisoners. An example of how much Israel values life. 

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