In Jerusalem, two of the most famous cantors in Israel are involved in a scandal right out of a Mickey Spallane novel involving seduction, comely female private detectives, hidden cameras and the works. The central players in the drama are Naftali Herstik and his former student, Israel Rand. Rand will soon be indicted for his conspiracy to turn Herstik into a de-canter.
Rand allegedly want to get rid of his teacher and mentor, who dominates the cantor scene. In their extortion allegations, prosecutors said that he hatched the plan three years ago that started in a synagogue in the Hamptons outside New York.
They say that Rand hired an attractive detective to pose as a student, lure Herstik to a hotel in Tel Aviv and then film their intimate moments. It appears to have worked. Rand allegedly sent pictures to the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem in an effort to get him fired.
Herstik insists that he met the woman and went to her hotel room because he honestly believed that she was interested in classic music. (I know . . . come upstairs and I will show you my Brahms). It appears that discussion of classical music is always better in a private hotel room. He insists that he saw the cameras and fled and never fell for the plot. (I must confess to being a bit skeptical and I am more concerned with Herstik’s veracity than his propriety).
The Haaretz newspaper published what it said was a transcript of Rand’s police statement in which he states that he hired the detective because “the man has been persecuting and defaming me for years. He has been making up stories about me. In the last two or three years he has harassed me. When they invited me to appear in the Great Synagogue, he prevented it with all sorts of excuses.”
Despite Herstik’s rather implausible explanation, he was reinstated by the board. Rabbi David Fuld, president of the Great Synagogue’s board, insists that he was “entrapped” and, as for Rand, he stated that “it brings into question why he would be allowed among civilized Jews.”
Herstik performs all over the world and comes from a celebrated Hungarian cantorial family. He is the founder of the Tel Aviv Cantorial Institute and has trained many of the world’s leading cantors. Rand is (was?) the cantor at the Synagogue of Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv.