Israel Phil cancels concert after rabbi bans women’s voices

Israel Phil cancels concert after rabbi bans women’s voices


norman lebrecht

November 05, 2019

A Tel Aviv charity concert involving the Israel Philharmonic and popular artists has been called off after the charity’s head, Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Firer, said he could not endorse an event in which women singers were heard.

Rabbi Firer heads the Ezra Lemarpeh organisation which provides health care for the underprivileged.

He said: ‘I am asking that the charity concert not be held. I have never intervened and never dealt with organizing the charity events. The association has had the honor of serving more than a million people thus far, no matter their religion, ethnicity or gender. I draw my energy from Jewish law, am proud of my way of life and am sticking to my life’s mission — saving lives and loving the other.’

More here.

Ultra-orthodox Judaism prohibits the sound of women’s voices for its perceived eroticism.


  • They could hold the concert and give the money to someone who approves. There can’t be a shortage of causes that need money.

  • Karl says:

    Religion, the first step towards a fact free society.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But a fact free society IS a form of religion.

      And then, religion is a fact in itself.

      And then, most of the cherished civilised values of modern society stem from religion, they have merely been liberated from organised Christian control.

      The relationship between religion and society, in its broadest sense, is a complex and multifaceted subject which cannot be covered by simple slogans.

      A civilisation without any form of spirituality will perish because civilisation cannot exist merely on the basis of material needs.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:


      • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

        Absolute No-No.

      • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

        [[ And then, most of the cherished civilised values of modern society stem from religion ]]

        Actually they stem from the Greek philosophers, John. Go back to school.

        • John Borstlap says:

          The school of this commentator must have been in dire streets. The values of the Enlightenment, which have become the heart of modern mores, human rights etc., equality, individual responsibility, etc. etc. – all those things we now take for granted – all stem from Christianity. It’s the history of Renaissance up till and including the 18th century. And Christianity itself was influenced by Greek philosophy, among other influences.

      • Mick the Knife says:

        Not even good nonsense, in terms of logic.

      • Karlo says:

        Total nonsense. Religion is a belief system based on faith in fairy tales for single cell minded adults/children/half wits who believe in Santa Claus and other simple minded creations created to help said children fall asleep faster. Spirituality, or perhaps the belief of a connection to an all encompassing understanding of nature and ourselves and it’s wonderful variety of complicated facts, has nothing to do with the Abrahamic misogynistic nonsense of the middle east, Buddhist B.S. of the far east and the cretinous American Evangelical “accept and go to heaven” garbage of North American nimrods. You have the right to believe what you wish, in most systems, but don’t confuse religion with societal norms. Humans are supposed to evolve from the ooze, not smother it over ourselves compulsively like some dehydrated 400 pound heifer Sue from the inland.

        • John Borstlap says:

          A typical comment from someone confusing primitive forms of religious beliefs with religion per se, one of the results of failing educational systems. Every civilisation of any value or achievement is based upon religion, and our modern world had never been possible without religious developments. This is not some personal opinion but historical fact, and it refers to the psychology of the human condition. Simple versions of religions are for the masses who need something, anything, to keep their life together, or themselves, and the more developed forms are part of culture. It is not necessary to describe perversions as psychopathology, we all know about the idiocy of terrorists. (But those people would have found other reasons for their idiocy if they had not some religious excuse.) No doubt the Abrahamian religions have many flaws, but they also hold much worthwhile – after all, they are old but a result of universal psychological needs.

          It may be of some interest here to know that art music in the 19th century was thought, by many Bildungsburgers, as the cultural form which could save the heart of religion (spirituality) when religion as an organised institute showed itself to be petrified and dead. Classical music began to be seen as an ‘art religion’, a substitute, without a suppressing orthodoxy. Beethoven’s music was thought to carry spiritual meaning, Wagner wrote his operas as spiritual experiences addressing the human condition, Mahler idem dito. In the 20th century this idea has been thoroughly discredited, especially when it appeared that the nazis could annex the art form for their own opposite ends. And today, both culture, including classical music, and religion have been kicked into the dustbin of history by a cynical mindset, which is incapable of any form of creation, or even preserving surviving art forms.

        • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

          Buddhism isn’t a religion.

          • John Borstlap says:

            It is a religious philosophy. There is also a lot of Greek philosophy in Christianity, the influence of neoplatonic philosophy on Christendom is a well-known fact.

          • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

            Utterly, utterly wrong. Go back to school, John.

      • Symphony musician says:

        To John Borstlap:
        The question of the existence of “God”, whatever that concept means to you, probably has a simple yes or no answer. Many of us have concluded that the answer is no. From that conclusion it follows that all of “the cherished civilised values of modern society” have come from humankind, therefore they are valid regardless of whether one subscribes to religion. It follows too that there is more to life than the simple material struggle for existence, even without religion.
        It follows too that all of the faulty or hateful ideas about life have also come from humankind; unfortunately many of those ideas have come through a religious conduit, i.e. presented as if they came from “God” or other superhumans, which means they’ve acquired the tragic connotation for some religious people that they cannot be challenged and are therefore sacrosanct for all time. The progress of the human race is hampered by such notions.

        • John Borstlap says:

          It is always meaningless to infer all kinds of things outside the context of a given text.

          It is a historical fact that any religion is a cultural product by humans, developed alongside the world of material existence, and an essential instrument in the development of the human mind, of consciousness. For instance, today’s science would not have existed if religion had never existed. Culture, classical music, architecture, etc. etc. would not have existed if… etc. etc. – too much to recite here.

          It is an integral part of evolution.

  • Manuel Drezner says:

    The Torah in no place forbids hearing women singing. Orthodox rabbis continue inventing a religion that has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.

    • V. Lind says:

      Jeez. Who do we usually hear this about?

      • Bruce says:

        Many religions. You can find lots of religious folk deploring actions taken in the name of their religion, saying, “this has nothing to do with true _______.”

    • Saxon Broken says:

      MD writes: “The Torah in no place forbids hearing women singing. Orthodox rabbis continue inventing a religion that has nothing to do with the Jewish faith”

      Sorry but you are wrong. The Jewish faith does not depend only on what is written in the Torah (or any other Jewish document) but is also formed from the customs and traditions of those practising it.

      You seem to be using the Protestant concept “sola scriptura”. This is the belief that Christian practise and doctrine much be solely justified by what is written in the bible. Most Christian traditions reject this argument. And I have never heard it argued by Jews.

  • Bill says:

    Interesting. Singing by women is out, but playing an instrument is OK? Or is that also forbidden?

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Does he know it’s the 21st century. The small minded idiot.

    • annonymous says:

      I heard many adjectives on Rabbi Firer. Never heard him being called an idiot or small minded. I wonder how many other people there are in the world that could compare to the work he does without taking a shekel for it.

      • Bill says:

        A real mensch. Just think how much more he could have done by not speaking up!

      • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

        There’s always an idiot, ready to endorse the other idiots,. isn’t there? Learn to spell “anonymous’.

      • V. Lind says:

        If you do not think it is small-minded, let alone idiotic, to cancel a charity concert because women might be singing (lest some are erotically affected) in the 21st century, you are round the twist.

        Citing good works — under circumstances that are probably restricted by more than the sound of women’s singing voices — justifies nothing. That is essentially the Domingo defence: he is a great artist, a great educator, a humanitarian, therefore he must be innocent of all complaints about his sexual behaviour.

        Fanaticism usually leaves logical thinking at the door.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          No, not ‘innocent’ of all complaints; just not expecting a kangaroo court without due process. That might be hard to come to terms with, but it’s the basis of civilized justice.

          Your comments on fanaticism are correct; Trump Derangement Syndrome being a major one of these.

        • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

          100% Bravo! Shut up, Sue Sonata!!

  • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

    Welcome to the 14th century.

  • Anmarie says:

    I could not be more ashamed of another Jew.

  • For a little perspective, Israeli Jews generally speaking self-identify with one of four subgroups: Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”), Dati (“religious”), Masorti (“traditional”) and Hiloni (“secular”).

    Haredim comprise only 9% of Israel’s population.

    The highly secular Hilonim are by far the largest group in Israel, comprising close to 50% of the population. According to the Pew Research Center, only 18% are absolutely certain in their belief in God, and 40% do not believe in God at all. Hilonim strongly favor the separation of religion from public life in Israel. At the same time, the large majority of Hilonim say they are proud to be Jewish and believe a Jewish state is necessary for the survival of the Jewish people. 83% of Hilonim see being Jewish as a matter of ancestry and culture rather than as a matter of religion.

    The Masorti are also a large group. For most, religion is not strongly central to their lives. Actions by the orhtodox Haredim often receive a lot of press because the stories have sensationalist appeal. This imbalances creates a false impression of Israeli society even if the Haredim sometimes create some problems.

    I mention these rather obvious facts just so that nut jobs don’t draw false conclusions from the article.

    • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

      Israel should disenfranchise the Haredim. The Haredim:

      –refuse to earn their livings by working, but demand to be fed, housed, clothed, and provided with medical care by the state, AND,

      –demand to be protected from Israel’s enemies, but refuse to serve in the military (with a very small number of recent exceptions motivated by public-relations concerns), AND,

      –demand the right to decide who may immigrate to Israel and who may not, and who may convert to Judaism and who may not, and who may worship at Israel’s holy sites and who may not, AND,

      –commit violent acts of terrorism, including, sometimes, murder, against Israel’s neighbors, and against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, and against Israel’s Jewish citizens who disagree with Haredim’s interpretation of Judaism, and against Israel’s LGBTQ citizens, AND,

      –are engaged in an organized, long-term effort to take control of Israel’s courts, AND,

      –violently attack women who dare to venture into “their” neighborhoods without dressing “modestly”, AND,

      –pollute Torah with their outlandish, fascistic, literalistic, misogynistic interpretation, AND,

      –inspire antisemitism all over the world and alienate Israel’s allies with their demanding, privileged, ungrateful, entitled attitude.

      Almost all the Haredim could be easily disenfranchised, by passing a law to restrict voting rights (and the right to run for government office) to citizens who have fulfilled the requirement of military service, or who sign a binding oath declaring willingness to serve if called.

      • Israel is a democracy. It should not, and will not disenfranchise any group based on their religious beliefs. Solutions to the issues surrounding the Haredim will be found through dialog and the political process. And through the legal systems and courts in the rare cases where that becomes necessary.

        • John Borstlap says:

          But if they have problems with women they will die out eventually.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            What about trans? You have problems with women so you invent another version of them by being a ‘tranny’.

            Last night I heard about a new form of PC madness; an ante-natal clinic has a form and at the top of that form is a box to tick for EITHER male or females who are pregnant. One UK bureaucracy has initiated cancer tests ‘for people who have a cervix”. For many people the words “man” or “woman” have become unsayable.

            The world is absolutely barking mad.

          • The Haredi believe in strongly dichotomous gender roles and have one of the highest birth rates in the world. The average family has at least four children.

          • Eric says:

            And like that other religion, they’re big on cousin marriages.

          • John Borstlap says:

            They keep two in reserve in case the other two convert to lighter forms of orthodoxy.

    • 9% and yet an influence far larger than that number.

    • Tom Hase says:

      From Wikipedia: “While Haredim made up just 9.9% of the Israeli population in 2009, by 2014, that figure had risen to 11.1%. According to a December 2017 study conducted by the Israeli Democracy Institute, the number of Haredi Jews in Israel exceeded 1 million in 2017, making up 12% of the population in Israel. By 2030, the Haredi Jewish community is projected to make up 16% of the total population, and by 2065, one third of the Israeli population.” This is also one explanation for the growing political influence of the Haredim. (The other one being the slow shift in the relation between the Haredim and the State of Israel, which is slowly changing from a position of opposition to Zionism on ideological grounds to willingness to take a more active role.) In any case, these type of conflicts are bound to occur more often in the future.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Those rates of growth of the community depend on none of the children of Haredim parents leaving their community.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Not all that different from that other religion which is always in the limelight. Those of us who are not religious should be very grateful for living in thoroughly secularised societies in the West.

    • Norbert says:

      You are SO right Mustafa.

      They are so similar in numerous ways, if they would only admit it. Two sides of the same coin, and both Semitic – technically speaking after-all!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Religion is part of culture. And in the West, culture operates under the ‘umbrella’ of universal values. Where religion clashes with these values, it has to adapt.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        I just choke on the word ‘values’ these days because, in reality, they are anything but values!! Perhaps the word needs to be permanently put in quotes, as in my use of it.

        In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the ‘values’ of today’s societies are the ‘values’ of not very much except what’s good for me. In short, I value being able to do what I like and say what the group says is OK for me to say.

  • M McAlpine says:

    An interesting point of view especially as God made women’s voices. Maybe it’s men who should control their emotions!

    • Bill says:

      Didn’t he also make all that yummy stuff the devout won’t eat?

    • Tamino says:

      Unfortunately that reasoning gets us in muddy waters intellectually.
      If God created everything, then it also created the holocaust. How can anyone still believe in God?
      Because God only exists as a human mental creation and projection?
      Not many humans can bear the burden of being alone, no paternal figure around to project one’s fears and helplessness on.
      Enlightenment only works for a minority of mentally strong people.
      The majority needs enslavement to one superior power or the other, apparently.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The original Enlightenment movement included forms of religion, only no longer institutionalised.

        • Tamino says:

          No. The philosophers of enlightenment were not suicidal. Published thoughts and internally practiced thoughts did not correlate 100%, as they never do under totalitarian rule.
          Spirituality is not synonymous to (monotheistic) religion.

          • John Borstlap says:

            “Spirituality is not synonymous to (monotheistic) religion.” Of course not. But spirituality in any form is always at the heart of any religion. The forms differ, but the meaning and functioning are comparable. At the end of the 18th century, a transition took place of spirituality from organised religion into a more vague, pantheistic faith, which can be seen reflected in the early romantics (Goethe, Schiller, Novalis, Holderlin etc.) and in the philosophy of Emmanuel Kant. Beethoven’s music is suffused with this form of spirituality, but he still wrote the Missa Solemnis. Etc. etc….. (etc.)…

        • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

          Go back to school. Boreslap.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Ultra-orthodox Judaism appears to be an oversexed religion. Who would have thought?!

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      When the female followers are in public wearing suffocating no-name desert tarps I’ll agree with you.

      • V. Lind says:

        Ever heard of the frumka? These Haredi prove that fanatic extremists are just as bad in one religion as another (and that certainly includes the so-called Religious Right — usually the Religious Wrong — in the US).

    • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

      Thought? There’s no ‘thought’ in this man’s knee-jerk intolerance. Israel’s scored a huge own goal if it allows this situation to continue. I see no sign of their alleged ‘democracy’ here.

      A seniile old nutter with too much time on his hands – virtue-signalling his ‘good works’ as a pretext for disgraceful (and, ehem, illegal) discrimination.

  • Enquiring Miind says:

    If a transexual sings in a contralto voice, is that forbidden by the Rabbi?

  • Joel stein says:

    To those above, religion does not have a monopoly on spirituality.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Of course.

      First, there is spirituality; second, some people construct ritualistic and psychological forms to make it more accessible or understandable or more easily communicated.

      And third, some people slash other people’s head for believing in the wrong way.

      Fourth, spirituality liberates itself from its constraints and either becomes more pure or descends into new age populist nonsense – this latter danger was a motivation to construct ritualistic forms in the first place, as a social measure.

  • Jerome Hoberman says:

    “Ultra-orthodox Judaism prohibits the sound of women’s voices for its perceived eroticism.”

    This extremely incomplete and careless “explanation” demands clarification, especially given the vitriol it has engendered.

    Jewish law (“halakhah”) prohibits adult men from listening to the *unamplified* singing voice of an individual woman, for the reason stated. Choral voices and/or a voice heard via electronic assistance are not prohibited (though it is fairly common for people to extend prohibitions in order to protect themselves and others against inadvertent transgression, for example by people unfamiliar with details of the law, such as Mr. Lebrecht). The law does not prohibit women from listening to women’s singing voices (or men’s, for that matter).

    This may not change any opinions expressed here, but at least it’s accurate according to a plurality of interpretations.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That merely means that when a voice is individualized, it is assumed that it suddenly becomes an erotic danger.

      One is reminded of highly erotic episodes in the Old Testament. That’s allright as long as it is not sung by one single female voice.

    • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

      Just do what I do. When you see one of Boreslap The Troll’s posts, don’t even bother to read it – it it guaranteed to be 100% ignorant. Just downvote and move on.

      • John Borstlap says:

        This appears to be a ship in a storm of bitter frustration….. let’s be mild on such souls, and hope that they will find some classical music to console them.

  • Bruce says:

    From the article: “Orthodox Jewish law prohibits men from hearing women sing, considering the female voice immodest and even a form of nudity.”


  • Sharon says:

    Many Haredi believe that the Holocaust is G*d’s punishment for splits in the Jewish community caused by Jews moving from Orthodox Judaism into other forms of Judaism, secularism and Marxism. I have actually heard a Haredi rabbi say this to what he believed was an only Orthodox congregation.

    They believe that it is only through their piety that the world will be redeemed and that those others who may help them are buying a ticket to heaven; therefore they have a right to make demands on everybody to support their lifestyle.

    They have a lot of kids not only to perpetuate their way of life which many of them believe will lead to a messiah coming and a utopia on earth but also because they have a duty to reincarnate all those souls killed in the Holocaust. (Yes, Orthodox Judaism believes in reincarnation).

    Unfortunately they discourage men from working outside their community for fear that they will become contaminated, that is, assimilated and also will not provide much secular education which would enable to earn a living to support their families.

    In Israel, Europe, and the United States they are very heavily dependent on social welfare benefits. Again they feel that they had every right to this as well as in Israel receiving military protection because it is because of their piety that G*d will save the world.

    Unfortunately social welfare benefits are being cut worldwide and the Haredi are increasingly resorting to business and government scams which they do not feel guilty about because they believe that they have a right to be supported.

    For example, when I was at Molloy College, a Catholic college, in 2000, a Haredi group approached them requesting that the college sponsor a government funded vocational program that had to be under the auspices of an accredited college . Since the Catholic board of directors did not know the Haredi and thought that this would be a nice ecumenical way to help a low income group they agreed.

    However, instead of providing vocational training the Haredi group used the money to support their religious schools (Yeshivas). When the government investigated and realized that this was a scam Molloy College was on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars not only to pay back the money but also in fines. The popular college president, a nun, was fired.

    There are cases of this kind in the New York City area every year.

    In addition, they do a lot of petty scamming of the health, educational, and social welfare systems on the individual level. For a first hand description of this see the widely circulated book All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen.

    And unfortunately, because the Haredi community has gotten larger this welfare dependency along with the scamming that goes along with it has increased. Because of them, while 40 years ago in a social welfare office in New York City the welfare beneficiary was likely to be an American Black and the caseworker Jewish now the caseworker is likely to be an American Black and the beneficiary Jewish. I have heard non Jewish caseworkers and health personnel laugh at the scamming of their Haredi clients.

    Why should the ethnicity of social welfare clients matter? In this case because it is the Haredi who are representing Jews to non Jews who frequently have little other first hand knowledge of Jews. What they see reflects the worst stereotypes of Jews, acquisitive, conniving and dishonest.

    In the case of the guy who canceled the concert, he probably felt that if he exposed men to the sin of hearing a woman’s voice that his organization might be punished by G*d in some way. I doubt if he would be so concerned if his organization lied on their fiscal reports or if he was using the charity’s money to contribute to the political campaigns of government officials i.e. bribes.