Cantor Simon Cohen
Cantor Simon CohenEmunah

There was standing room only at the Henry Crown auditorium at the Jerusalem Theater for the National Religious Women's Organization – Emunah – Jerusalem Chapter Gala Concert last week, honoring the organization's gracious national president and former Israel ambassador to Norway, Yehudit Huebner, whose long years of public service bring to mind those of her contemporary, President Shimon Peres.

The Jerusalem Theater Orchestra, led by the internationally known, young Israeli conductor Roi Azoulay, added a festive and professional note to the arrangements composed by famed musical director Raymond Goldstein.

Looking around at the number of Anglos in the audience, it was clear what caused the MC, Cantor Simon Cohen, to debate, with tongue-in-cheek, running the evening in English rather than Hebrew - an idea quickly voted down by the Zionist audience, but most of the performance did end up being introduced in both languages.

Chief IDF Cantor Shai Abramson, an emotive lyric tenor who is a master of traditional cantorial compositions, along with operatic and cantorial baritone Cantor Colin Schachat, who has performed in Buckingham Palace - sang solos and duets, as did Cantor Cohen, whose vast repertoire goes from cantorial classics through opera to Broadway.

Schachat brought down the house with dramatic renditions of "Ol' Man River", "Stars" and "No Puede Ser, Zarzuela". Cohen brought back memories of famed cantor Yossele Rosenblatt with his rendition of "Mimkomcha" and outdid Barbara Streisand in the moving "Avinu Malkeinu". Abramson spiritedly sang Yankele Talmid's "Hallelu", Glantz's stirring "Shma Yisrael" and had the audience softly singing along with the classic and beautiful "Zacharti Lach."

Young violin virtuoso and French immigrant, Gabriel Chouraki, just out of his IDF uniform, played the Meditation from Thais so beautifully that the hushed audience took a minute to respond with deafening applause at its end. Nine-year old Shlomo Temerlies's clear, strong voice and tender years made the melody he sang for "En Kelokeynu" into a pure expression of faith.

Group participation was inspired by the enthusiasm of the three phenomenal singers who starred at the event, and who sang together in renderings of a Jerusalem medley, a Yiddish medley dedicated to mothers that left not an eye dry in the audience, Broadway tunes and - surprise - a medley of American songs of the fifties and sixties, including Elvis, that had those who were teenyboppers at the time humming nostalgically along. Since the IDF Chief Cantor did not join the last medley, Shachat's talented son joined the other two singers.

The concert ended with everyone rising for the Israeli national anthem Hatikva, a rendition in which one could hear that the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra put its whole heart.

Renee Becker, joint head of the Jerusalem Emunah chapter, the organization's largest, who received well deserved kudos for succeeding in putting it all together, made sure to share them with her fellow chairpersons, with the volunteers who helped organize the evening, Racheli Brooks who runs the Jerusalem chapter – and especially thanked the sponsors who made it all possible.

Most important of all, in Emunah tradition, the monies raised will go towards Emunah Jerusalem's day care centers, providing scholarships for children whose working mothers cannot afford the monthly fees.

Emunah - National Religious Women's Organization, founded in 1935, has been awarded the Israel Prize and President's Volunteering Prize, for serving the Israelis from infancy to old age all over the country in social welfare, education and volunteerism, family and culture, National Service, advancement of women and more.