Performed by Rabbi Ira Rohde, available on Jewish Voices in the New World, published by the Milken Archive of Jewish Music.

Performed by Rabbi Dr. Louis C. Gerstein and the Shearith Israel Choir. From Historic Music of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in the City of New York – Vol. 2. The High Holy Days and Festivals. Published by the Shearith Israel League and available for purchase through the Synagogue office.

Performed by Rev. Abraham Lopes Cardozo and the Shearith Israel Choir. From Historic Music of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in the City of New York – Vol. 2. The High Holy Days and Festivals. Published by the Shearith Israel League and available for purchase through the Synagogue office.


Performed by Rabbi Ira L. Rohde, Hazzan

Kaddish for the Eve of Succot with introductory lines from the end of Psalm 42.  Two melodies are traditionally used in this kaddish.  The first part uses a festival melody from London and the second part uses the “‘Alel d’Italia” melody.

This recording includes musical accompaniment composed and performed by Rabbi Rohde which reflects its 18th century musical origins.  In the synagogue it is performed without any instrumental accompaniment.

Simhat Torah

Performed by Rabbi Ira L. Rohde, Hazzan & Choir Conducted by Leon Hyman

This is the famous Tenu Shebahah, Hebrew Lyrics and Music by Hazzan Jacques Judah Lyons

Choir Music Transcript


Listen to Azharot chanted by Hazzan Rabbi Ira Rohde in the Spanish & Portuguese traditional Shabuot melody.

Azharot (“Admonitions”) is the name given to the poem by Shelomo Ibn Gabirol with introduction by David Ibn Eleazar Pekudah, which enumerates all 613 Commandments of the Torah in rhymed verse. The introduction and the first part, which lists the 248 positive Commandments, is traditionally read on the first day of Shabu`ot, just before Minhah, and  the second part, which enumerates the 365 negative Commandments, is read on the second day before Minhah. The poem is chanted by the men and boys of the congregation in the Spanish & Portuguese traditional Shabuot melody in a round-robin style, with each participant leading two lines.

Listen to Shearith Israel’s unique melody for Book of Ruth sung by Hazzan Rabbi Ira Rohde.

The Book of Ruth (one of Five Biblical books referred to as “Megillot,” meaning short scrolls traditionally written by scribes the form of “rolled-up” parchments) is traditionally read on Shabuot, since it deals with both the Israeli wheat harvest at this time of year, which the festival marks, as well as acceptance of the Torah, in this case by Ruth as a faithful convert. The younger girls of the congregation who take part are pre-assigned a few verses each, which they carefully rehearse, learning to chant them according to the congregation’s unique traditional cantillation system for the Book of Ruth. Men traditionally read the book before the First and Second Day Afternoon Minhah services, along with the Azharot. The Teamim or Cantillation system for Ruth is used for some other readings, as well.


Each new day of Hanukkah begins on the Eve of that day, with increasing numbers of candles from one until eight. The liturgy for Hanukkah at Shearith Israel includes our particular versions of the Sephardic chants for the Hanukkah candle-lighting blessings and Hanerot Halalu. Shearith Israel’s text of Hanerot, interestingly, does not directly  mention warfare. Shearith Israel also chants all of Psalm 30 out loud each morning and evening: This is because Hanukkah’s meaning is “[re]-dedication” or “[re]-consecration,” and this Psalm  is entitled “A Psalm A Song of Dedication (“Hanukkat”) of the House [of Worship].” Besides lighting at home, candles are lit at the evening services each night, and the hanukkiah/menorah is put out for display in the morning as well. As at all other synagogues, Al HaNissim is added in the thanksgiving sections of the Amidah and the Grace After Meals. At each morning service,  Sephardim  recite the blessing “ligmor et ha-hallel” and read all of the Hallel HaMitzri, Psalms 113-118. On Shabbat Hanukkah, the choir joins in the Hallel, and most of Psalm 118 is sung to the musical setting of the famous Sephardic French-Jewish operatic composer Jacques Fromental Halevy. Shearith Israel follows the usual practice of taking out the Torah and reading a section from the Book of Numbers having to do with the gifts given by the tribal leaders at the consecration/dedication of the Altar of the desert Tabernacle. On the first morning the reading begins with the Priestly Blessing, and on the last morning it concludes with the instructions for lighting the Tabernacle’s seven-branched Menorah. The music included at Shearith Israel includes many versions of the familiar German-Ashkenazic Maoz Tzur melody [although the hymn itself is omitted], as well as the tune from Handel’s “See the Conqu’ring Hero Comes” from his oratorio Judas Maccabeus. 

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Have you heard our Hanukkah “waffles song”? This is not only a favorite, but a special tradition.  In this recording, Rabbi Ira Rohde excerpted the part devoted to Hanukkah from a poem by Moshe de Yehuda Piza (1737-1808) depicting the different kinds of holiday foods of Amsterdam. In accordance with universal Jewish custom to eat forms of pancakes (made with oil, in remembrance of the miracle of the oil) on Hanukkah, the tradition of Amsterdam was to eat vaffele (Belgian waffles) on Hanukkah because God made a “miracle and wonder” (Hebrew: “nes va-fele”) during these days.

Amsterdam traditions are rooted in our New York congregation’s Colonial New Amsterdam heritage, and were constantly being renewed by the hazanim (cantors) from Amsterdam who served in New York through modern times, such as Rev. Abraham Lopes Cardozo, who brought this song with him and published it in his book “Sephardic Songs of Praise” (Tara Music Publications, 1987). The children of Shearith Israel especially love using the waffle iron (“barzel” is the Hebrew word for “iron” used in the song) to make the Belgian (or Dutch, since in Colonial times Belgium was part of the Netherlands) waffles every Hanukkah. Here, Rabbi Rohde sings for them.

Composition sung by Shearith Israel Choir on Shabbat Hanukkah

This composed “Min HaMetser” is sung by the Choir of Congregation Shearith Israel sometime around 9:30 am on the morning service for the Shabbat of Hanukkah, during the Hallel section. Some time ago it was used for the morning service on Thanksgiving, before the exigencies of parade-watching forced a curtailment of that service. This audio clip was taken from Track 14 of “Choral Music of Congregation Shearith Israel,” recorded by the Choir of Congregation Shearith Israel in 2003.

The composer of this piece, JacquesFrançoisFromentalÉlie Halévy (1799-1862), was a famous French operatic composer, born in Paris, son of a Sephardic cantor, Élie Halfon Halévy, who was the secretary of the Jewish Community of Paris. By the age of ten, Jacques-François had entered the Conservatoire de Paris, and there he rose to become a prominent professor of music, numbering among his students Georges Bizet, Adolphe Blanc, and Adolphe Danhauser. Fromental Halévy is best-known for his grand opera “La Juive,” which is a staple of the operatic repertoire. He rose to prominence in France as an arbiter of public artistic tastes, becoming permanent secretary of the Academie des Beaux Arts in 1854. A prolific composer of operas, cantatas, and ballets, Halévy is known to have also composed settings of several Hebrew texts, specifically from the Psalms, such as this section of Psalm 118 “Out of my straits.” Halévy encouraged the composition of 19th-century synagogue music, most notably through his protege, Samuel Naumbourg. Here in New York a century ago there was a famous Halévy Society to which many prominent Jewish musicians belonged, including Leon M. Kramer, who served as Shearith Israel’s choirmaster from 1883-1943.

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