Friday, April 21, 2006

Yom Hashoah - Choir controversy

CJN: The Toronto Board of Rabbis (TBR), comprising mainly Conservative and Reform clergy, said it won’t take part in, or endorse, this year’s community-wide Yom Hashoah commemoration after organizers decided the full Renanim Youth Choir can’t sing at the event because the group has both boys and girls. This year, for the first time, organizers decided to invite the Renanim choir to take part in the annual event, but only with its male singers. The decision was made out of deference to the Vaad Harabonim, the umbrella for some 70 Orthodox rabbis, in order to respect the traditional prohibition against men hearing women sing (kol isha). The six-year-old choir is two-thirds female and its 25 members range in age from 10 to 18. Although there are no formal, written guidelines for the event – to be held April 24 at Earl Bales Park – female clergy, female soloists and mixed choirs have not been on the program in past years. Organizers want everyone in the community to feel comfortable, event co-chair Louis Greenbaum said. Both rabbinic groups, along with about a dozen other organizations, have been longtime co-sponsors of the Holocaust Community Commemoration, which is facilitated by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. The TBR, whose approximately 40 affiliated rabbis are mostly Reform and Conservative, voted unanimously this month to withdraw its support from this year’s event, said Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich, who will succeed Rabbi Daniel Gottlieb as president June 1. “I think the exclusion of children is particularly painful, because children’s voices were silenced in the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Gottlieb, who was on the event’s steering committee. He said the program, as it stands, does not “reflect the community,” and that although he has asked for the inclusivity issue to be looked at in the past, it has not happened........
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