Hazzan Asa Fradkin

Hazzan Asa Fradkin is the hazzan at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, MD. He is a native of Baltimore.
Hazzan Asa Fradkin is the hazzan at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, MD. He is a native of Baltimore.

Can you help save a life?

Can you help save a life?

There is a beloved member of our community in need of a kidney. 

This member has taught hundreds of our children to speak Hebrew, know the Jewish holidays, learn Jewish songs. 

This person creates beautiful works of art, sculptures, paintings, that belong in a major collection.

It was once considered taboo to be an organ donor in the Jewish community. A widely believed misnomer that it’s not kosher to donate your organs because of Jewish burial laws.

But this has never been the case, and major orthodox organizations now promote kidney donation as a great mitzvah. See here 

https://hods.org/

Living donors are more and more common and recovery from the surgery is relatively quick- 6 weeks. The after effects are slim to none.

Read more about it here: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/living-donation

If you are interested you should contact me directly at afradkin@bethelmc.org

The Johns Hopkins Transplant line is 410-614-9345

Please share this with whomever you can, our beloved friend needs your help.

Shabbat Shalom

Hazzan Fradkin

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments

The Men Who Spoke To God

 

The Men Who Spoke To God

 

When I was a boy, my grandparents were my most significant Jewish influence. We always spent parts of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur with them, going to the great shul on Hooks Ln in Baltimore, Beth El.

 

The Rabbi then was Mark Loeb, an exceptional human being who had rare oratory skills and was a living legend until his untimely death almost ten years ago. The Hazzan was Saul Hammerman, one of four brothers, all Hazzanim.

 

I couldn’t stand it, sitting there listening to the Hazzan singing on and on the same words! It just seemed like a gigantic show and I couldn’t wait to go back to my grandparents’ comfy apartment, have lunch and be with my family.

 

If I only knew what I was missing; I’ve never regretted my ignorance in those years more than I have these past few weeks.

 

That’s because I’ve been teaching a class for Scolnic entitled “Davening with the Divine”, a look at how the greatest Hazzanim of the Cantorial Golden Age ( 1920’s-1950’s) approached their art form, the liturgy and God.  What did these great Cantors do with their voices as they approached God?

 

Cried, whispered, deliberated, wailed; expressed the gamut of human emotion in a voice that could have only come from God Godself.

 

How could I have known that, sitting in that great sanctuary as a 9 year old boy? Well, if I had grown up in a home in Boro Park, I might have, but more to the point, I am saddened that I could not appreciate the brilliance, the utter humanity that Saul Hammerman put into his High Holiday Davening.

 

The tradition of Hazzanut may never return to the pulpit as a mainstay of Jewish culture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the magnitude of it’s role in expressing the wishes of the Jewish soul.

 

Enjoy the beauty of these selections by two of the greatest voices of the Golden Age. I have no doubt that Cantor from my childhood had their voices in his heart as he davened his Tfilot.

 

May the memories of those sweet singers who spent their lives speaking to God, eternally be a blessing and inspiration.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Hazzan Fradkin

 

Leibele Waldman- Rtzeh from Shabbat Evening-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gkULKMygx4

 

Moishe Oysher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIrAYnAmNC4

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 1 comment

What Are We Building?

In about 15 minutes my Dad is going to arrive to help me put up my Sukkah.

It takes me back to our home in Baltimore circa 1995 when we built our first Sukkah on the deck of the townhouse while I blasted Hootie and The Blowfish from my boombox .

My Dad actually worked as a carpenter for a short time before changing careers and he’s returned to it recently, building tables, shelves and other types of furniture for members of our family. So this is going to be the easiest most efficient Sukkah build in quite some time. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments

What are we building?

In about 15 minutes my Dad is going to arrive to help me put up my Sukkah.

It takes me back to our home in Baltimore circa 1995 when we built our first Sukkah on the deck of the townhouse while I blasted Hootie and The Blowfish from my boombox .

My Dad actually worked as a carpenter for a short time before changing careers and he’s returned to it recently, building tables, shelves and other types of furniture for members of our family. So this is going to be the easiest most efficient Sukkah build in quite some time.

But I am really looking forward to the building process, because more than anything, that’s what i remember about past Sukkots.

It’s the construction that helps us start doing the Tshuva we promised to do on Yom Kippur.

What will we build this year? Will it be sturdy enough to hold us within and help us live as we have always imagined?

Who will we invite in? What holy discussions might take place?

The process of return, of renewal, can begin with the smallest and most fragile construction.

So as you build your sukkah this year, imagine yourself on the 9th of Tishrei 5780, what change did you begin building this day?

Shabbat Shalom

Hazzan Fradkin

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments

From Dayton to El Paso: Rediscovering the value of human life.

It’s hard to know what to say anymore. 253 mass shootings in 2019 alone in America and people are devastated. Just check out this Time Cover listing every city with a mass shooting this year.

America is sick, it is polarized, it is nasty, it is angry and it is deeply wounded. Some people blame angry white men. Some people blame the NRA and some blame President Trump’s race baiting rhetoric towards immigrants, although the Dayton shooter was apparently affiliated with the far Left.

One thing is certain, this self imposed mass destruction must end. And for us to achieve something real, we need to speak in words of unity, of the value for human life.

The Talmud teaches the following lesson on the precious nature of life. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments

The Cantors Take Italy- And You’re Invited!

Question- and stay with me here- have you ever hung out with a group of Cantors?

You might be thinking “ Wow, I’m imagining a bunch of people talking over each other, singing over each other, comparing Tfilah and Trope styles and their favorite old time Hazzanim.”

And you’d be somewhat right! Or, well, kind of right; it depends heavily on which kind of Cantors you are hanging out with. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 1 comment

Expanding Our Jewish World Through Music

At the WUST Jewish Community Radio on May 17 to preview the Bima to Broadway to Beltway Concert

At the studios of WUST Jewish Community Radio on May 17 to preview the Bima to Broadway to Beltway Concert

As I sat in on the final rehearsal for the Bima To Broadway To Beltway concert listening to a rendition of “Gesher” by Judith Silver, I couldn’t help thinking how cool this concert was going to be.

Yes “cool” is absolutely the word for it.  Hazzanim Arianne Brown, Elisheva Dienstfry and Hinda Labovitz created this show for the DC Jewish Music Festival last spring and clearly spent a lot of time considering music that was parts modern, playful, soulful and funny as well. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments

Nusach- It’s not just for Cantors anymore

Tomorrow night  I will be teaching a class for Tikkun Leil Shavuot on the beauty of Nusach ( The Soul of Jewish Music) as I call it.

Before we continue, some definitions are in order.

Like many concepts in Jewish practice, Nusach can have a few different meanings.

It can refer literally to the text of the siddur you use, be it Askenazic, Sephardic, Chabad Hasidic, or to the melodic setting in which you chant the prayers of the Siddur.

Naturally, the chanting will be my point of focus here. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments

Why Do(n’t) You Go To Shul?

I once had a colleague that said- tongue and cheek- the reason he became a Rabbi was to make the service seem faster- since it always seems to progress more quickly when one is on the Bima.

True, it does. But I quite like it in the pews as well, where I don’t have to do anything but relax, reflect and pray.

What do you like? Do you like to come into the synagogue on a Monday, Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday? Do you prefer the shorter weekday service or longer more lyrical Shabbat experience?

What kind of meaning do these experiences bring you and if you don’t find yourself in the synagogue to pray often, what is your connection here? Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 5 comments

Faith Expectations- “Jews want their Rabbi to be the kind of Jew they don’t have the time to be”

Rabbis and Cantors are known for reusing material for sermons, songs, teachings, concerts, what have you.  I usually try to avoid that if I can absolutely help it; sometimes, though, if I get in a bind, I will bring something from one presentation and use it with another group.

That being said, this throwaway line from “Keeping the Faith” ,a turn of the millennia comedy starring Ben Stiller and Edward Norton ( guess who played the Rabbi?) , sparked quite the discussion in my final Scolnic class this past Wednesday night, and I felt it warranted a bit more exploration.

Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments