Hi everybody. Here is this week’s installment of my blog. Many thanks for the very nice compliments that I have received. I appreciate it very much. Here we go…



On August 23, 1966 one of the greatest cantors of all time passed away from cancer.  Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky was beloved around the world and he really was known as the “Chazzan Ha Dor”, the Cantor of the generation. His was a lyric tenor voice of unmatched power and brilliance even in the highest registers. He easily sang the D above high C with full and magnificent sound.  He was famous not only among Jews, but all lovers of fine music.

Cantor Koussevitzky was born in 1899 in Smorgon in the Ukraine. After serving in Vilna and other cities, in 1928 he attained the most prestigious cantorial position in pre-Holocaust  Europe when he became chazzan of the famed Tlomatzka Street synagogue in Warsaw, Poland. He served there until 1939 and the German invasion of Poland. Arrested by the Gestapo, Koussevitzky was rescued by non-Jewish members of the Polish underground and went deep into Russia. He spent the war years entertaining Russian troops and was decorated by Stalin himself for his contributions to the Soviet war effort.

In 1946 he returned to Warsaw and saw that Jewish life there had been destroyed. In 1947 he arrived in America and became cantor of the famed shul Beth El of Boro Park in Brooklyn, where he remained until his passing. He concertized and recorded extensively throughout the remainder of his life. His three brothers were also chazzanim. David (1912-1985), Jacob (1903-1959) and Simcha (1905-1998). Happily, they all survived the war and gave a reunion concert at Carnegie Hall which is still talked about to this day. Unfortunately, no recording of it was made.

Cantor Koussevitzky’s recordings fall into three groups. In Poland he recorded throughout the 1930’s for the Parlophon, Kristal and Syrena labels. Upon his arrival in he United States in 1947, he signed with RCA Victor and recorded an outstanding series for them until 1952, when RCA stopped making Jewish records. Many of his most well remembered selections are from this series. They are magnificent and most are with symphony orchestra directed by Warner Bass (1910-1988).  In 1959 he began to record for the Famous label, one of the small Jewish recording companies in New York and continued with them until the end of his life. His last album “I Shall Lift Mine Eyes” was released after his passing and the album contains a black box in which is inscribed “This was Cantor Koussevitzky’s last recording before he was called to his Maker”. A poignant end to a magnificent career.

In the decades since his passing his recordings have been re-issued many times. In addition many concert and other live tapes have been released, but most are of awful sound quality and are not really listenable. Today many modern cantors try to sing Koussevitzky’s pieces, but there is simply no comparison to the original!  He was a true giant and lovers of Chazzanim and of fine music will always remember his thrilling artistry. May his memory always be for a blessing.



The world of Jewish radio lost one of its own last week with the passing of Rabbi Jacob Max in Baltimore on August 9 at the age of 87.  For over 50 years he was the founder and spiritual leader of the Liberty Jewish Center, known today as the Moses Montefiore-Anshe Emunah Jewish Center.  In addition to his rabbinic career, he hosted a Jewish radio program called the “Yiddishe Radio Shtunder” (Jewish Radio Hour). The program was begun in 1963 by his brother Herman and when he passed away, Rabbi Max kept the program going as a tribute to his late brother. The program featured Jewish music and news of the Baltimore Jewish community. It was very old timey and had a lot of charm. The commercials were half in Yiddish and it was fun to listen to. It lasted on the air until 1996 when it folded.

For a number of the 33 years the show was on the air, it was on stations with strong enough signals to be received in the Washington area. In the early 80’s I lived close enough to Baltimore to listen and I made several airchecks of the show which I still have. In addition I had friends in Baltimore tape it for me as well. I had occasion to meet Rabbi Max once and he was a very nice man and I enjoyed speaking with him. May his family be consoled among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.



On this week’s show we will have some nice upbeat Chassidic music by Yisroel Williger and Abie Rottenberg. On the comedy corner a great song by Variations called “Chazzan Man” a take off of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”, and another great one by Allan Sherman.  There will be an excerpt of Rabbi Jacob Max’s “Jewish Radio Hour” from 1984 and on the 78 groove the “Wedding in Biro Bidzhan” which we talked about in last week’s blog.  The Cantorial feature will be the late Chazzan Moshe Koussevitzky and two of the most famous RCA Victor recordings, Sheyiboneh Beis Hamikdosh (May The Temple Be Rebuilt) and Ad Heino Azorunu Rachamecho (Until Now Your Mercies Have Never Failed Us) and other great music as well!

Ben will be playing “Shir Hayona” by (my boy) Yakov Shweky, a comedy song “Jewish State of Mind” by Atom Winston, and more from Harel Scott, AKA Pella, Yeshiva Boys Choir and “Yiddish Country” by the 8th day (can’t wait to check that one out!)

Matt’s song of the week “We’ve got a strong desire” by Shlock Rock , a take off of another Billy Joel hit “We Didn’t Start The Fire”.  Lots and lots of great Jewish music for you to enjoy. Spread the word about Washington Jewish Radio and pass the website along. That’s it for this week’s blog. Listen and enjoy!!