(New York Jewish Week) — Jeremiah Lockwood, the singer, composer and frontman of The Sway Machinery, is preparing for an upcoming concert by “doing a lot of talking to ghosts.”
These “ghosts” are those of the Jewish women singers and cantors of the past century. As it happens, many women — not just men — have made deep contributions to Jewish spiritual life and music, but their stories were rarely told or preserved.
Lockwood, 31, is hoping to rectify that. On Sunday, at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, Lockwood will unveil his newest composition of vocal music: “In di vayber shul” (“In the women’s synagogue”), which is inspired by the legacy of these nearly forgotten Jewish women.
“Chazzanus [cantorial music]is very important to me,” said Lockwood, who is currently a fellow at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. “It’s the music that inspires my creative work and it’s part of my family heritage. It’s just the essential musical organizing point for my life.”
Lockwood’s father, Larry Lockwood, was a composer and his grandfather, Jacob Konigsberg, was a renowned cantor. “Growing up in a cantorial family, we were given the ideology that it was a male art form — that was a viewpoint that was held by both the male and female members of the family. But that’s not true,” he said.
A lifelong New Yorker, Lockwood has been leading efforts to recognize and revive “the golden age of cantorial music,” sacred singing by Eastern European cantors on records and in live performances that became widely popular on record and live performances among Jewish audiences in the 1920s. Last year, he produced “Golden Ages: Brooklyn Chassidic Cantorial Revival Today,” a 10-track album featuring six Brooklyn cantors singing in the style of this music, which is operatic with lots of technical flourish and improvisation.
Lockwood describes the past year studying women’s voices — voices both cantorial and in a broader sense — as a “shock of recognition.” “There were women who were prayer leaders in small towns in Europe,” he said. “There were women who were priests, professional healers and exorcists, parallel to the Baal Shem Tov [the 18th-century founder of Hasidic Judaism]. There were women who were doing healing work.”
Since beginning his study, Lockwood said he’s come to understand the historic power of women’s voices: in synagogues and spiritual spaces, on the Yiddish stage and radio, in community initiatives and in family life. They include women like Goldie Malavsky, who along with her father and six siblings formed the Malavsky Family Choir, which performed in concert halls and hotels. Malavsky went on to become an independent soloist who toured around the world in the second half of the 20th century. Another cantorial star was “Khazante” (female cantor) Perele Feig, who in the 1950s had a weekly radio program on WEVD, the Yiddish language radio station in New York, and toured the Eastern Seaboard.
“It’s not shocking, it makes total sense. It fits well with what I understand about Jewish life,” he said of these women’s success. “The thing that’s surprising is just how thoroughly it’s been erased from contemporary Jewish life. I feel that is a problem.” Lockwood has mainly been using Jewish press archives to conduct his research and uncover these stories.
Lockwood’s piece, a tribute to these women’s voices and stories, is the culmination of his studies. The lyrics draw upon American and Yiddish language ethnographies — descriptions of Jewish society both in Europe and the immigrant communities of New York— as well as Eastern European folklore, Yiddish vaudeville and even contemporary music, like that of the late Jewish music composer Jewlia Eisenberg, a friend of Lockwood’s who died in March 2021.
On Sunday, the one-hour concert will be performed by singers Judith Berkson, Yula Be’eri and Rachel Weston. (The program premieres the previous day in New Haven.)
“It’s important to me to get deeper into why their [women cantors’] story disappeared,”Lockwood said. “There’s a throughline of stories that have been eroded from public Jewish consciousness that has to do with the roles that women play in sustaining the spirit life of the community.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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