Shortly before bed, he usually thinks of the most beautiful melodies. “If I was skilled, I would write it right away,” says Assaf Levitin, author and composer, with a smile. At that moment he definitely thought that he would never forget it again, but the reality was different and the next morning the melody was gone. If it’s on sheet music, he can sit back later and compose the bass. Examples of his work can be streamed on all common Internet portals.
He has now released a new album with his works: Psalm Al-Assaf – New Synagogue Music, Made in Germany (Psalm Assaf). The special thing about it: Levitin purposely composed it for a church service. He says, “No Jewish Kanter in Germany wrote the post-Holocaust liturgy.” Although before the Nazi regime it was part of working life and the cantor was invited to compose regularly. “Many have developed their own traditions.”
For example Samuel Lampel (1884-1942), who worked in Leipzig, or Emmanuel Kirchner (1857-1938), who worked in Munich, and Israel Mayer Javitt (1818-1892) from Frankfurt. Each had an individual style. Thus each liturgy acquired its own character.
import music Currently, the music for these services is imported from the United States and Israel, Levitin says. I think it’s time to start creating my own tracks again. He has recorded seven tracks, including three for Saturday Cables, more on High Holidays and of course, Ma Tovu. “This is always possible.”
He also specified Psalm 150 for music, which could be heard at every service. “My presentation is very specific,” Levitin says. He can also introduce the musical note.
Levitin associates part of his family history with “Lecha Dodi”.
All pieces are very melodic. Some can also be interpreted as a cappella, others can be accompanied by bass, recorder, clarinet or bass guitar. “But society can sustain this variable.” The tunes are derived from the lyrics, says the 49-year-old, who until recently was an official in Hanover’s liberal society.
Here he previously wrote synagogue music in recent years, which also found its place in the liturgy. Prayer and pianist Stella Perevalova also put together a psalmist, which is now also regularly sung at church services.
Occupation He’s been a singer since birth, says the native Israeli who currently lives in Berlin. At no time did he think of another profession. After studying singing at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music, he studied in Saarbrücken with Yaron Windmiller. Elbass baritone was a member of the International Opera Studio at the Zurich Opera House for two years, after which he became a member of the Dortmund Opera Troupe.
Eventually he decided to train as a mentor at Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam. Among other things, he was assigned homework to compose pieces that could be heard in the liturgy. This included preparation services. And with that, he decided to create something new.
When Levitin got grants after applying to “Neustart Kultur” from the Interest Group for Music Artists (GVL), he was finally able to register his business – although the money wasn’t enough and he still had to dig into his own pocket. With Naaman Wagner (piano), Dana Marbach (vocal accompaniment), Hemi Levison (recorder), and David Husson (guitar, drums, and music direction), he brings friends with him who often makes music.
The bride’s niece One of the works is of particular interest to him: “Lecha Dodi”, a really happy song for the wedding reception on Saturday. Because he connects a part of his family history with her, which he discovered only recently. His great-grandfather, Josef Siebrak, had worked as a cartel at the Kriegshaber Synagogue in Augsburg. “I already knew that my grandfather came from the city, but his father, that is, my great-great-grandfather, was a publisher, he only came now.”
“I work for the present and the future.
Claudia Huber of the Augsburg Memorial Workshop conducted a search for his family. During World War I, Poland held his grandfather a prisoner of war in Augsburg. Later he lived with his family in the official apartment in the synagogue and taught, including to non-Jewish children. When the Nazis came to power, he was soon arrested, first in the so-called preventive detention in the Gestapo prison, and later deported to Buchenwald.
great grandfather There he met one of his former students who was now in charge of the building as a guard. This allowed the prisoners to celebrate the Shabbat midwives in a corner of the dormitory. He is said to have continued in this way for a few months until a hint emerged that everyone in the quarry should be shot. Especially horrific: only when the prisoner comes within five meters of the guard can he be shot. His great-grandfather resisted and did not allow himself to be pushed over the mark, even though he was about to be beaten. Assaf learned that “almost every bone was broken, teeth fell out and the larynx was injured.” So it was documented at Yad Vashem.
However, the prisoners wanted a Saturday reception. The Cantor’s job was always to sing the Lycha Dodi’s voice – but he was so badly injured that he could no longer speak. The others waited because no one dared. It even started with a toneless voice but with a wonderful negin melody. Yad Va-shem archive says. The next day he was taken and killed at the killing center in Berenberg an der Sally. “I found out about it a week after I did Lesha Doody,” Levitin says. “That knowledge changed me.”
He hopes that the works of lesser known composers will also be heard.
Music is his identity, his mother tongue. He is just trying to express everything in his own language. “I work for the present and the future.” Musical notes also shape his life, because he now has an extensive archive in his apartment. Often discounts go to him. “Jewish music has a lot to offer, and I would like the works of lesser known composers to be heard as well.” Levitin regularly receives inquiries about whether he can make the notes available for choirs – which he is happy to do.
tripartite Eight years ago he founded the trio “Die Drei Kantoren”, with which they released their third album last year. He also directs the Shalom Berlin Choir and the KOLOT Vocal Quintet, which are dedicated to the Jewish liturgy. He also performs as a soloist and specializes in Jewish music with the RIAS Chamber Choir, German Chamber Choir and Leipzig Synagogal Choir.
His music should be a sign of the renewal of Jewish life in Germany and a call for a new, growing awareness of Judaism. The album “must be a wake-up call to set new accents.” Hoping that more musicians would write tunes for the service right before bed – because it’s important to them.