Yaakov Choueka,better known by his stage nameYaakov Shwekey, is an Orthodox Jewish recording artist and musical entertainer. In his song Shema Yisrael, he tells a touching story about the connection between prayer and jewish identity.
Legend has it that Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, Zatzal (1886-1969), The Ponovizher Rov, once encountered a church which denied the existence of any Jewish children placed in their care (he knew that there were Jewish children that had been placed in the church in order to keep them safe during the Holocaust, and they were raised there as Christians, with their Jewish identity hidden for their own safety.)
He began calling out “Shema Yisroel” and instinctively the children raised their hands to cover their eyes and started calling out “Mama! Mama!” Having shown that they were Jewish, he took them from there so they could start leading Jewish lives once more.
In the song, Yaakov Shwekey tells this story and concludes that we should all know how much G-d wants to hear us call out to him: “Shema Yisrael!”
- Do you feel that prayer is a central part of your Jewish identity? Why or why not?
- Why do you think we tend to turn to G-d in times of great happiness or sorrow?
- This song shows very strongly how the shema has become in a certain sense the ultimate declaration of jewish faith. Why do you think that is?