It is with great sadness that Matzav.com reports the petirah of Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov (Geoffrey) Kramer z”l of Beitar Illit and formerly of England.
Rabbi Kramer was the man behind the establishment of the beloved children’s choir, “Pirchei London,” otherwise known at the London School of Jewish Song, and was the musical collaborator of Rabbi Yigal Calek, the renowned conductor and composer from Manchester.
When he was nearing bar mitzvah age, young Yisroel Yaakov came with his parents to the city of Manchester, where they settled in a house adjacent to the Machzikei Hadas shul. Their neighbor turned out to be none other than the legendary and principal chazzan of the Machzikei Hadas kehillah, Rabbi Hershel Goldstein, who taught Rav Shalom Schwadron, the Maggid of Yerushalayim, the famous rendition of V’Atah Kadosh that is widely sung today in its unique “Machzikei Hadas” version.
After receiving his education at the local school and learning Gemara from Rabbi Goldstein, young Yisroel went on to study at Gateshead Yeshiva, where he excelled under the guidance of his rabbeim, particularly Rav Leib Gurwicz. Following this, he continued his studies under the guidance of Rav Avrohom Gurwicz. During that time, the menahel was Rav Chizkiyahu Eliezer Kahn.
After leaving Gateshead, Rabbi Kramer went to London, where his star began to rise. He was approached by the Agudas Yisrael organization in London to lead the choir that would accompany the Siyum HaShas celebration, which was approaching. The choir consisted of young boys and adolescents, and as Rabbi Kramer recalled, “In essence, this was my first time on a stage in front of thousands of people. The subsequent performances I participated in were also in front of thousands, but I mostly operated from behind the scenes, managing and overseeing all the professional aspects.”
Months after that Siyum HaShas, Rabbi Kramer received a request from Yigal Calek to assist him with the London choir. “I gladly accepted his request,” Rabbi Kramer later recalled, “and from then on, every Sunday, Reb Yigal would teach the children new melodies, until the first recording of Pirchei London, which included fourteen songs, most of which were composed by Yigal himself. The album was well-received, and in a short time, the choir became a tremendous success.”
Rabbi Kramer composed the famous “B’Ein Meilitz Yosher” of the London choir, as well as “Ani Ma’amin.”
Yehi zichro boruch.