Jimmy Barnes: “I’m Jewish”

August 21, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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In front of an audience of 1700 at Sydney’s Central Synagogue, Australian rock star Jimmy Barnes told a concert audience at Sydney’s Central Synagogue last night: “I must be Jewish”

”]Barnes [2nd from rt] knocks out Od Avinu Chai with the Cantors
l-r Shimon Farkas, Dov Farkas, Yehida Niassa, Bob Borowsly, Jimmy Barnes, Shimons granddaughters Tamar and Ethan and Cantor Helfgot

l-r Shimon Farkas, Dov Farkas, Yehida Niassa, Bob Borowsky, Jimmy Barnes, Shimon's granddaughters Tamar and Eden and Cantor Helfgot

Having sung “My Yiddishe Momme”, partly in Yiddish in a duet with renowned cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, Barnes later took to the stage by himself to sing a solo version of “What a Wonderful World”.

But before he performed he told the audience that he had telephoned his mother yesterday to ask her why she had given him a Star of David when he was about 18. He told the crowd that his mother had said: “My mother gave it to me and her mother had given to her so I thought I would give it to you.” He then said that he had asked his mother if her grandmother was Jewish and she replied that she was and that her name was Esther. Barnes continued: “If I get this right, my great grandmother was Jewish, my grandmother was Jewish, my mother is Jewish so I must be Jewish.”  If he was expecting a welcome home, he got it in spades as the crowd applauded the story rapturously.

J-Wire shares Jimmy’s moment with you. We apologise for the quality…our cameras were at some distance from the stage….

Central’s Cantor Shimon Farkas who performed with his son Dov, Cantor Helfgot, Cantor Yehuda Niassof and Bob Borowsky told J-Wire: “It must be true. We worked with Jimmy for only three days and he sang all his Yiddish lyrics perfectly. He picked it up amazingly quickly.”  Barnes’s participation came about when Farkas was dining at the city’s Hakoah Club with the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv at the same time as Barnes was enjoying a Kosher meal with Rabbi Mendel Kastel from the Jewish House. Farkas offered him a singing gig at the concert and Barnes accepted ins spite of an upcoming tour and busy schedule.

The concert covered chazannot, opera including an exceptional rendition of Nessun Dorma by Cantor Helfgot which had the crowd on its feet.

Barnes found a special moment to share his discovery. There was not a an empty seat in the synagogue and his announcement met with enormous applause from a very enthusiastic audience.

Another highlight of the evening was a clever duet sung by Cantor Helfgot with the late great Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky using archival footage shown on two screens on either side of the stage which had been specially built in front of the Ark.

Musical support was provided by father and son conductor team Dr Mordechai and Ofir Sobel who traveled from Israel to direct the Sydney International Orchestra.

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