Courtesy HBO
Courtesy HBO
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For Singapore’s Jews, a Very ‘Game of Thrones’ Rosh Hashanah

At shul, some are wondering: Haven’t we heard that melody before?

Liel Leibovitz
September 18, 2017
Courtesy HBO
Courtesy HBO

Yaki Lauer is a young cantor with a great, big voice. Most shabbatot, he sings with the choir at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. On the High Holidays, however, he travels the world, helping communities anywhere from Cleveland to Mexico welcome in the new year. This week, he’s headed out to Singapore, where a few hundred Jews, most of them Iraqi-born, are eagerly anticipating his arrival. And to help usher in 5778 in style, Lauer’s got a surprise tune up his sleeve: “Avinu Malkeinu,” the seminal prayer begging for divine mercy, sung to the tune of the theme music from HBO’s Game of Thrones.

“This prayer details an endless array of troubles and disasters,” Lauer said in a recent interview, “so I thought it fit nicely with the show, which is also all about wars, fights, and a lot of sinat chinam, or baseless hatred.”

Not many in his haredi yeshiva, he confessed, shared his love for the show and its explicit scenes, but its nudity and violence aside, he found its message spiritually appealing. “I really empathize with Tyrion Lannister,” he said. “I’m also very much on the short side.”

And while some may scoff at introducing pop culture into the synagogue, particularly with such a beloved and seminal prayer, Lauer believes infusing it with something familiar only serves to help the congregants connect with the liturgy. “You have to make prayer more accessible,” he said, “by using melodies they already know and like. That’s my motto.”

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.