2017-09-27 / Voice at the Shore

Rodef Sholom Cantor Isaac Wall honored for his 100th birthday; Torah reader Irving Raab, z”l, also remembered

Voice shore editor

Cantor Isaac Wall, who turns 100 this winter, is the first to arrive at Rodef Sholom every morning and walks to shul every Shabbos. Cantor Isaac Wall, who turns 100 this winter, is the first to arrive at Rodef Sholom every morning and walks to shul every Shabbos. Rodef Sholom Cantor Isaac Wall, who turns 100 years old this year, was honored at a tribute dinner at the shul on Sept. 3. Wall, who became internationally known for his exceptional voice, came to Rodef Sholom 26 years ago, after retiring from a distinguished 47-year career as cantor for Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, Pa. Wall is also a founder of the Cantors’ Assembly.

Even now, at age 99, Wall is always the first one at Rodef Sholom for davening every morning, said synagogue leaders who spoke at the tribute dinner. On Shabbos, he regularly walks two miles to the shul, using a walker, and will not accept rides, noted Elliot Nehmad, former Rodef Sholom president.

Roughly 130 people— including locals as well as past and present Har Zion congregants— attended the tribute dinner. Among those was David Sacks, a Margate realtor who was there with his two brothers, all of whom had studied for their bar mitzvahs under Cantor Wall at Har Zion.

“Cantor Wall is a beautiful human being, one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” said Sacks. That sentiment was echoed over and over throughout the evening by all who spoke about Wall.

“Cantor Wall is the definition of a mensch,” said David Kushner, a synagogue board member who served as master of ceremonies for the tribute dinner. “Having Hazzan Wall at Rodef Sholom is a gift.”

“Our Hazzan knows Hashem,” said Rodef Sholom Rabbi Shalom Ever. “For you, it’s a local call,” he told Wall, who sat at a table surrounded by family. “For others, it’s long distance... and for you, it’s wireless!” joked Ever.

Har Zion Cantor Elliot Vogel, who took over for Wall after he retired, led the blessings after the meal. Vogel acknowledged that one reason he took the position at Har Zion 27 years ago was to follow in the footsteps of Wall, whom he looked up to as a role model. “Hazzan Wall is truly a righteous man and there aren’t many like him on this earth,” said Vogel.

Indeed, righteousness was a life’s pursuit for Wall; the cantor’s son, Shalom Wall, recalled how his father once said in an interview that “‘davening is only half of [being a cantor]; the other part is being a good person and role model.’”

Wall’s son also thanked Rodef Sholom for giving his father the opportunity to continue doing what he loved in his retirement. “We his family appreciate how you at Rodef Sholom have welcomed him into your family. Coming here is what keeps him going.”

The Cantor himself also briefly stood up to say a few words. “I am grateful to the good Lord that I was able to make it to this day,” said Wall, who also thanked everyone for coming.

The Rodef Sholom tribute dinner was originally planned to honor two “pillars” of the synagogue who were about to turn 100. In addition to Cantor Wall, the other honoree was supposed to have been long-time congregant Irving Raab, who passed away just prior to the tribute dinner.

Raab, a Holocaust survivor, was well known locally. He, his late wife Esther, and his sons Abe and Marvin, were well known for their support of local survivors and Holocaust education, said Rabbi Ever. At Rodef Sholom, Irving Raab served as the Torah reader for a quarter century. “He was a Torah reader ‘par excellence,’” said Rabbi Ever.

To honor Raab and Wall, Rodef Sholom will be installing a new custom-made parochet (ark curtain) after the holidays, said synagogue board chair Bruce Ostrow. The artwork on the parochet features two pillars along with the inscription: “In tribute to two pillars of Congregation Rodef Sholom, Cantor Isaac Wall and Mr. Irving Raab.”

According to Ostrow, the parochet was created to ensure that “any person who walks into this shul will see the names of these two pillars of our community who meant so much to us and contributed so much of their time and talents to this shul.” 

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