By Gordon Dale, Ph.D.
On the evening of the 18th of Nissan 5779 (April 22, 2019), the Modzitz community of Brooklyn celebrated Pesach with musical joy befitting the holiday. The annual Pesach kumzitz was held in the home of R’ Aron Orlander, a devoted student of R’ Ben Zion Shenker, zt’l, and was co-led by R’ Dovid Bick, a close friend and student of Rabbi Shenker. Featuring lively singing of Modzitz classics, as well as treats from lesser-known corners of the canon, the event showcased the breadth and depth of the Modzitz repertoire. A highlight of the evening was surely the musical offerings of R’ Andy Statman, whose virtuosic clarinet playing demonstrated his attention to musical nuance and decades of close study of the repertoire.
Those in attendance were also treated to the soulful clarinet of R’ Chaim Helfand, whose beautiful playing contributed to the warmth of the evening. R’ Dov Lenchevsky’s skillful keyboard playing and quick ear offered a harmonic foundation for all of the evening’s festivities
The kumzitz was noteworthy not only for its joyous environment but also for the manner in which each niggun was identified according to its composer and the occasion for which it was composed (R’ Yehuda Nathan, who is extremely knowledgeable about Modzitz history, assisted in contributing this helpful information). The kumzitz gave life to these melodies from generations past, enabling the composers’ religious devotion, as expressed through music, to enter the present day. The greatness of these composers—primarily previous Modzitzer Rebbes as well as several key Hasidim—offered fuel to ignite a fire in the singing of the community.
Congregation Imrei Shaul Modzitz, located at 1542 Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, holds a kumzitz every chol hamoed Pesach and Sukkos. Yahrtzeit Seudahs are held in the shul to honor each of the previous Modzitzer Rebbes through the singing of niggunim and divrei Torah. These events are free and open to the public.