Spanish-speaking Jews in Latin and North America can sing a song of thanks at last, now that the famed NCSY Bencher (a compilation of blessings and songs) has been published in Spanish as El Birkón de NCSY. The Birkón follows similar translations into German, Hungarian, and Israeli Hebrew. This is the 40th printing of the bencher, which besides the blessing after a meal, is replete with zemirot (songs) and prayers for Sabbath, holidays and other special occasions, all of which have been translated and transliterated into Spanish.
NCSY is the international youth organization of the Orthodox Union.
For example, the Birkón translation of the iconic Friday night hymn, Shalom Aleicheim, is:
Bienvenidos ángeles guardianes, ángeles del Altísimo, del Rey, Rey de reyes, el Santo Bendito sea.
Shalom alejem malajé, Hasharet, malajé Elión, miMélej maljé hamelaji, Hakadosh Baruj Hú.
NCSY has printed 10,000 copies of the Birkón to reach the burgeoning Spanish/Jewish communities in the Americas. To meet the needs of those communities in Latin America, NCSY recently established programs in Chile and Argentina.
According to Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, “NCSY is internationally recognized as a leading kiruv (outreach) organization and we were gratified to be approached by leaders of the Latin American Jewish community to produce something that will have such far reaching benefits for Klal Yisrael (the Jewish community).”
The Birkón is being underwritten by Roberto and Eileen Fischmann, whose family also underwrote the Spanish translation of the ArtScroll Siddur. Roberto Fischmann is from Guatemala. While Rabbi David Felsenthal, Director of OU Alumni Connections, was discussing the project with the Fischmanns, Mrs. Fischmann remarked how valuable the NCSY Bencher has been to her and that she learned to recite blessings from it. The Fishmanns stipulated in the contract that sufficient copies of the Birkón should be set aside for their daughters’ weddings.
Artscroll will distribute the Birkón in South America with the help of Rabbi Shimon Vinger, Chilean-based Director of NCSY Latin America, and Rabbi Israel Lashak, Regional Director of the NCSY Southwest Region, based in Dallas. Rabbi Lashak is a native of Mexico.
In his introduction to the volume, Rabbi Vinger wrote: “This Birkón is an example of the success of NCSY around the world. It is also a fundamental way to enable any Jewish family, whether or not an expert in the customs of Shabbat, to bring our rich traditions to their homes. Our sages on many occasions remind us about the vital importance of song in Jewish life. With this first edition of the NCSY Birkón, our wish is that the tradition of song and celebration will be more accessible for Jews in Latin America.”
Rabbi Felsenthal declared, “The translation comes in response to the growing number of Spanish-speaking Jews who are seeking to return to their roots. There is a great need for a bencher that is translated and transliterated by an expert who can help those who use it to enjoy and learn about their traditions.”
Marcelo Melnick of Chile was chosen to do the Spanish translation. “His previous experience and glowing recommendations made him a natural fit to do the work,” said Rabbi Felsenthal.
The original NCSY Bencher, which is edited and translated by David Olivestone, National Director of Planning and Communications at the Orthodox Union, has guided joyous singing at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and many Shabbatonim since 1982. It has sold over million-and-a-half copies and will now reach an even wider market.
Copes of the Birkón may be obtained at www.shopou.org.