Star chazan pulls in the crowds on High Holy Days

Avremi Kirschenbaum to deliver his 'breathtaking' performance at St John’s Wood shul


There are hundreds of chazanim across the globe, but few have attracted such a devoted following both in Israel and the diaspora as Avremi Kirschenbaum.

The 35-year-old father of six from Jerusalem has become one of the main draws to High Holy Day services in north west London, where he will be leading a flagship synagogue in prayer for the ninth year running.

Shortly before Rosh Hashanah, Kirschenbaum, who is Charedi, leaves his community at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue to join St John’s Wood shul.

“Even though the synagogue is filled with people who come from all over London, the entire room is absolutely silent before he performs. You could hear a pin drop,” said Aliza Weinstein, an honorary officer.

Recalling the first time she heard him sing, Weinstein said: “I was floored. He was just breathtaking. From regulars to those who only come once or twice a year, the very religious and the not at all, the room is packed to see him. He has become their Yom Kippur experience.”

Kirschenbaum, who usually stays in London for a few weeks at a time with his wife and young children, told the JC that he tried to make his performances as accessible and inclusive as possible.

“It’s important to me to make Judaism relatable for everybody, whether they’re Charedi, Orthodox, Liberal, Reform or any other. When we get to the court of Hashem, it should be our goal to bring as many friends with us, as evidence of a good life.”

According to Weinstein, one of Kirschenbaum’s most popular tunes is a variation on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Outside of his davening duties, Kirschenbaum becomes involved in the St John’s Wood community itself, often being invited to meals at congregants’ homes.

“He’s a professional, but he’s also just become much loved among the members,” said Weinstein.

“He’s a very nice person, very sweet-natured and kind, and always willing to answer any questions or help people who are learning to sing. It’s a real treasure to have him.”

The admiration is mutual, said Kirschenbaum. “St John’s Wood Synagogue is a very special community. They are always thinking about how to make the shul better, more popular and more engaging, and the atmosphere is amazing. They are so welcoming, and they work hard to keep it so.”

Kirschenbaum will be joining Marc Temerlies and the Neimah Singers this Saturday for their Choral Midnight Selichot service at the shul.

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