An academic meeting place created by the International Forum for Jewish Music Studies (IFJMS) for communication, information, discussion for scholars, archivists and practitioners in all aspects of Jewish music and a platform for continuing activity.


2 replies, 2 voices Last updated by Geraldine Auerbach 1 year, 10 months ago
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    • #51088

      Geraldine Auerbach

      Who Killed Chazzanut?

      Today’s ‘Conversation on Zoom’ with Joshua Markovich and Charles Heller under this provocative title was very stimulating and provoked much thought and debate.

      Like the planet, Chazzanut cannot quite yet be written off, but the next decade will be crucial if it is not to be lost by neglect (by the very bodies who claim they want the traditional music of Jewish prayer to continue to move congregations for future generations)

      Alex Klein (who, as you know, thinks about this subject a lot) put forward several culprits (after others had jokingly said The Butler etc)

      1. Rabbis
      2. People who employ Synagogue Clergy
      3. Cantors who are poorly trained.


      So how can we redress the situation? Rather than cantors bemoaning the situation to other cantors – I believe that the conversation going forward has to be much wider. Cantors have to talk to all the people in the above list – and more.ECA would like everyone to put their heads together to come up with solid considered proposals as how we can alleviate the situation going forward (stop the forests being cut down and start replanting for a healthy planet).  The only way to address the cantorial situation (or crisis) – to my mind – is to encourage the bodies responsible for synagogues and the synagogues themselves (particularly in the orthodox world) to:

      1. Agree a standard that their prayer leader has to meet
      2. Select or provide appropriate training to achieve that standard
      3. support people to train to attain that standard – and
      4. employ the people who are so trained to do the job.


      Anything less will just be sticking plaster and prolong the agony. Once these principles are agreed, it will take several years to implement, but there are many small steps that can be taken right away so that by the end of the decade things may be very different – and murder averted.   Maybe you can suggest from your experience steps that could be taken. If we work together then our combined voice could become powerful in this. Here are 10 small steps we have thought of in no special order.  Your comments and suggestions would be most welcome. What would empower you, if you are a prayer leader to have a more respectful and have a properly recognised role in your synagogue?

      1. Recognition by the synagogal bodies of the beneficial role of a trained prayer leader
      2. Creation of a page /section on the synagogal body website for the cantors /prayer-leaders
      3. Each synagogue should be encouraged to have a page on their website featuring their cantor or prayer leader/s
      4. Each synagogue should have a space on their social media for their cantor or prayer leader/s to post what they will be focusing on each shabbat
      5. Each synagogue should make sure  their cantor or prayer leader/s writes a paragraph or two on the weekly Newsletter about what they will be focusing on   
      6. Each synagogue encouraged to appoint a person who is responsibility for the musical customs of the synagogue.
      7. Conduct a Survey of who is actually taking services at present and on what basis
      8. Arrange meetings with lay leaders to extoll the benefits of a properly trained prayer leader
      9. Engage with Rabbis showing best practice and encouraging rabbis to realise the benefit of a colleague who can stir the community emotionally with informed music throughout the year.
      10. Encouraging synagogues to have a trained prayer leader who is a full part of the synagogue leadership team alongside, and sharing duties with the rabbi (not an officiant only for shabbat – and instead of a second rabbi)

      I am opening the discussion on this IFJMS forum. I hope you will join in by replying here and that we will be able to move forward together for a better future for chazzanut.

    • #51163

      Joseph Toltz

      I think Alex hits the nail on the head with his 3 answers, and I agree that it is in this particular order where we see the death of khazzones. I would also add that changes in musical taste is killing the art-form. One place where it seems to survive is with the Charedim – but even their performances are subject to musical tastes of the moment.

    • #51207

      Geraldine Auerbach

      Links you might like to check out from Joshua Markovitz that he used in his talk:  COZ 58, Tuesday 16 November 2021 |

      Who Killed Hazzanut?

      Charles’ book “What to Listen for in Jewish Music” can be ordered directly from him at

      Though my knowledge is limited to Ashkenazi hazzanut, Shraga Herstik recommends this Sephardi musician and hazzan, Yohai Ovad, esp. to get a sense of how modes/makams work in practice:


      “Hazzanut is an historic form of religious entertainment based on stylized folk song, sung unamplified to an all-powerful God, and transmitted through sheet music and recordings from the Golden Age.”

      Will Crutchfield: Like riding a horse. Once part of everyday life, now must be deliberate.

      Crutchfield on cantorial music:

      “Religious Entertainment”
      Noah Schall in 1986: [At 1:05:59]

      Moishe Oysher (playing a cantor) delighting Michel Rosenberg (in real life a Yiddish theater owner and occasional character actor) with a setting of the Sabbath morning service written by Abe Ellstein The cantors son part 2 [At 19:00]

      Rosenberg later worked this into a light-hearted satiric routine [At 5:52}

      “Stylized Folksong”

      Noah Schall on use of “congregational” melodies by Rosenblatt and other East European cantors: [At 6:00]

      “Cultured Hasidic Singing”(Cantor Yehuda Marx)

      Charles – story with trying to get music teachers to play freygish.

      Example of Kol Nidre sung less elaborately (by Manfred Lewandowski), then more elaborately (by Moishe Oysher): [09 – The Jazz Singer – 2:45]Israel Rabinovitch in Montreal Jewish Public Library – on Kol Nidre opening motive used for selling aliyos: [12:05]
      Cantor Katchko inserting slight “krekhts” into his pronunciation of “avenue” [Track 4 – 1:38]

      Slight krekhts explained by Ethel Raim and Cantor Sarah Myerson in a presentation for the Milken Center back in May: [27:00]

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