“Club Tropicana, drinks are free,
Fun and sunshine, there’s enough for everyone.
All that’s missing is the sea,
But don’t worry, you can suntan!”
With maximum respect to the co-writers of these fine lyrics, when I attended shul on Friday evening to recite kaddish in memory of my late brother Jonathan, I was not expecting to have to compete with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley blaring from an adjacent apartment.
The Melchett minyan, however, situated in the grounds of a kindergarten, is surrounded by residential buildings, the typical inhabitant of which is an Ashkenazi young professional who is quite likely to “bat for the other side” . . . hence my having to recite my initial “Yisgadal veyiskadash” to the accompaniment of two eighties gay icons who never appeared to dress in anything but beachwear. Try to maintain kavanah (the mindset for prayer) – not my strong point to start with – having to do that.
Anyway, while he might have preferred Jimi or the Dead (I would have gone for a Lenny dirge myself), Jonny – whose music blared through my entire childhood – would not have disapproved of the concept.
I had thought, earlier in the day, of attending a minyan where I would be anonymous because, whenever I visit the Melchett one, the gabbeh (the bloke who runs the show) always makes me feel guilty that they only ever see me twice a year. And, sure enough, as I walked in, the puritanical Shmuel – an accountant, appropriately enough, during the week – gave me that look, before walking over and shaking my hand with a distinctly patronising “Welcome,” which I always interpret (correctly) as “What? Yahrzeit again?!”
I have disappointed Shmuel. He had high hopes for me once – at the turn of the millennium – when, during my year of mourning for my father, I was a minyan regular. But, while I had the best of intentions during those twelve months – of continuing my shul-going even after they were up – they all came to nothing with the abruptness of my final “ve’imru amen.”
The Melchett minyan – a whimsical collection of locals whipped into line by Shmuel and a learned, prominent Tel Aviv court judge – has always struggled for numbers. With promises of the World to Come and/or, on occasion, herring, it regularly has to drag in reluctant locals to make up a quorum (of ten men), no enviable or straightforward task in Tel Aviv . . . never mind off Sheinkin, Israel’s secular heartland. But the minyan has also been guilty of the kind of crass stupidity in which synagogues so often seem to specialise, most ludicrously by allowing the formation of a breakaway service – also struggling to obtain a quorum – which competes against it from the adjacent classroom.
Kaddish, anyway, just doesn’t do it for me. Neither does yizkor for that matter, or even visiting graves. Not being able to cast off my religious upbringing, I of course do them all, though they just – if you will excuse the expression – leave me cold . . .
And, while I was reciting my second and final kaddish of the evening – accompanied, this time, by Radio Ga Ga (all I heard was “radio ga ga, radio goo goo”) by Queen (further evidence of the Shabbos desecrator’s sexual bent) – it occurred to me that the very best way of remembering Jonny would be to ask you lot to read (or reread) my e-memorial to him, and the many touching comments that follow it.
God bless, Jonny.