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Avraham Moshe Bernstein
Birth Date
Birth Place
Minsker Gubernia, Russia
Death Date

Avraham Moshe Bernstein  Biography

Amongst the giants of Chazanut in Eastern Europe, was the famous Chazan and Composer, Avraham Moshe Bernstein. His name is not well known today, even amongst lovers of Chazanut, as he did not make any recordings. He was, however, a key figure in the development of modern Cantorial music, a man who served his community, the Taharat Hakodesh Shul in Vilna, faithfully and conscientiously for 30 years. His music was praised by famous composer Rimsky-Korsakov as “among the elect of synagogal compositions”.

Not only was Bernstein a fine Chazan, he was also a first-class musician, who wrote beautiful compositions, and an erudite Hebrew scholar. He was fluent in several languages, and was known to be a very kind and humble man, and a genial personality.

Avraham Moshe Bernstein was born on Tisha B’Av in 1866 in Shatzk, a small town in West White Russia – Minsker Gubernia, as it was in those days. He was brought up in a strictly orthodox household, and at nine years of age, was already well versed in Gemara. His father was a Baal T’fillah, and Avraham Moshe derived much pleasure in helping his father at the Amud. At the age of ten, he decided to leave his home town, and went to Minsk, where he entered the Yeshivah.

The Chazan of Minsk at that time was the famous Yisrael Minsker, who was a very sweet ‘davener’, and possessed a very clear diction. Avraham Moshe was deeply inspired with his davening and decided to approach him for an audition, which was granted, and the young lad was accepted as a chorister in Yisrael Minsker’s choir. However, he did not ‘fit in’ with the other choristers, whose ways were far from refined, and decided to leave.

He left Minsk, and entered the Yeshivah of Mir, where he remained for two years. He was yearning to daven and sing, and after leaving Mir, he travelled from town to town until he arrived in Kovno. There, he met the renowned Chazan Raphael Judah Rabinowitch, of the Kovner “Chor-Shul”, who combined the qualities of Chazanut, music, scholarship, and Hebrew culture. Bernstein became a pupil of Rabinowitch’s, and a close friend of his family. It was Rabinowitch who was his guide and mentor in his future career.

In 1888 at the age of twenty-two, Bernstein became Chazan in Bialystock’s “Adat Yeshurun”, where he remained for eighteen months, then becoming Choirmaster of the Great Synagogue of Riga, Latvia, where the illustrious Chazan Baruch Leib Rosovsky (1841-1919) (a pupil of Weintraub) officiated. In 1893 as already mentioned, Bernstein accepted the position as Chazan of the “Chor-Shul” in Vilna, known as the “Taharat Hakodesh”, where he remained for thirty years.

Bernstein davened in a most delightful and classical manner. He had a first- class choir, and their fine repertoire consisted of the finest classical compositions. The late Moshe Kusevitzky was a chorister there for a number of years, under the leadership of Chanan Glaser (who perished in the Vilna Ghetto). Bernstein composed quite a number of compositions, published in three volumes, named “Avodat Haboreh”. He also edited the “Musikalisher Pinkus” – a collection of Zemirot and Chassidic melodies, and a number of Hebrew and Yiddish ‘lieder’, among them the famous “Zamd un Shtern”, words by Frug, and “Hemerel, Hemerl, Klap”, words by Raizen. Among his compositions is the well-known “Yismechu v’malchuscho” for Cantor and Choir, which was included in the repertoire of the famous synagogues in Europe, prior to the last war.

Unfortunately, the Synagogue that he had served so faithfully for so many years, treated him very badly and terminated his contract at the age of about 57. In order to survive, he became a teacher in a Jewish High School. He was completely unaccustomed to teaching and the effort undoubtedly shortened his life. He died on the tenth of Sivan in 1932, at the age of 66.

8 thoughts on “Four Divine States of Mind”

  1. I am reaching out to you on behalf of Saiph Stars, a non-profit organization developed for children battling illnesses, providing them with resources such as videos, songs, games, magazines, etc. to entertain and inspire them while undergoing treatments during their long hospitalizations.
    BH, we have a wide range of performers, singers, storytellers such as Yakov Shwekey, Mordechai Shapiro, Ari Goldwag, Baruch Levine, YBC, Uri Davidi, Rabbi Ashear, Rabbi Lish, Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, Rabbi Erps, Rebbee Hill, Rabbi Pesach Krohn, and many more who have joined our project by allowing us to use their material. In addition, subscriptions such as Mishpacha, Binah, The Circle, Spotlight, JWOW have all joined our project as well BH. All the material will be uploaded to locked iPads and is streamed thru the Saiph Stars App designated to be used by these children.
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    It should be a tremendous zechus for you! Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

  2. Felice Glazer says:

    I was just sitting at my piano looking over a very old book of songs called the songs we sing by Harry Cooper Smith. I got this book when I went to Anshe emet Sunday school in Chicago. That was in the late forties and fifties. This book is falling apart but I love it and will never part with it until I pass away. Something today just made me decide to look up the name of Harry Coopersmith and that’s how I found this site.

  3. Philip Joseph Brody says:

    Joseph Brody was my great grandfather. Murray Brody was my grandfather and Joseph Brody was my father. I am Philip Joseph Brody born in Queens N.Y. My halfbrother Brian is a saxophone player. Unfortunately I think musical talent skipped me. My great grandfather died before my father was born. Unfortunately my father died around 59 years old. I’m about to be 52 so hopefully I won’t pass before my time.

  4. MARTY KUGLER says:

    Is there any way that I can get the lyrics to Semour Rockoff’s song “Der moiled vet zein.” I know about half the words, but I no longer have the record. I’ve been searching for the lyrics for over 40 years.

  5. MARTY KUGLER says:

    Is there any way that I can get the lyrics to Semour Rockoff’s song “Der moiled vet zein.” I know about half the words, but I no longer have the record. I’ve been searching for the lyrics for over 40 years. Thanks, Marty Kugler maak68@gmail.com

  6. Steve Sonshine says:

    I had the extreme privilege of attending Band and Orchestra classes taught by Mr. Musiker while attending J. Madison H.S. in Brooklyn, N.Y., from ’63-’65. I, with my fellow percussionists, listened and learned about music, ensembles, and respect, …all lessons taught by Mr. Musiker.
    I am so happy to read of his successes. He deserves them all.
    Mr. Musiker, you are COOL
    with affection,
    Steve Sonshine, Reg. Archt.

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