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[Pages 179-180]

The Choral Society “Hasamir”
in Czernowitz

by Dr. Heinrich Rubel (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Jerome Silverbush

The first Jewish choral society in Czernowitz and actually, the first in all Europe was founded in 1907 by several students at the initiative of Marem Somer, Hermann Ebner, Josef Dickstein and Jakob Gross. At first, the society only had quartettes and double-quartettes that performed under the musical leadership of Josef Rosenstech, choir director of the Czernowitz Temple and the City Theater.

According to the by-laws of the society, the program included the preservation and spreading of Yiddish and Hebrew songs (folk songs and psalms) as well as secular music, preferably by Jewish composers.

By 1908, the society had an especially large men's choir whose members mainly came from the ranks of the Czernowitz academic organizations and which performed publicly for the first time at the opening of the “Jewish House.”

The first chairman of the society was pharmacist Philipp Füllenbaum, the chairman's deputy was Hermann Bianowicz. The board of directors consisted of the four above named students as well as representatives from the Jewish national academic organizations Hasmonäa, Zephirah, Emunah and Hebronia.

In 1911, the society had over 100 male members and 60 female members and was able to put on its first “founding concert” under the direction of Joseph Rosenstech. The program contained folk songs and psalms. Opera singers Slava Schewitz (soprano), Dori Schächter and J. Osterer (tenor) among others performed as soloists.

In the course of time, the society achieved a leading place in the musical life of the city and also had a respectable position in the city's social life. So, in 1912, the society together with all the Jewish academic organizations was able to hold the first representation [possibly meant in a theatrical sense] ball of the Jewish community of Bukovina at which, for the first time, representatives of the government, including the mayor's office attended. This ball became a yearly event in the Bukovina social scene.

The society gave numerous concerts in Czernowitz as well as in other cities of Bukovina and in several cities in East Galicia. In 1913 the society performed two concerts in Vienna in conjunction with the XI Zionist Congress. The performance offered by the 100 man strong choir to the audience which consisted mainly of attendees of the Congress among whom were President Warburg, Sokolow and Jakobson was received with enthusiastic approval.

In the same year Dr. Salo von Weisselberger, mayor of the city of Czernowitz was elected chairman and Prof. J. Schleyer was elected as deputy chairman of the society.

After the First World War (1919) the society was reactivated under the name Hasimir by Dr. Marem Somer who was gifted with extraordinary organizational talent and the society included a Zionistic program in its by-laws.

In 1921, the deserving long time director of Hasamir, Josef Rosenstech was offered the position of choir director of the opera in Bucharest and in his place Max Hellmann the opera director of the Czernowitz State Theater was entrusted with the musical direction of Hasamir. Under the musical leadership of this excellent director, in additional to national music, a whole series of significant musical works of international character was introduced.

In the same year, pharmacist Cäsar Perlstein took over the chairmanship of the society and Lawyer Dr. Heinrich Rubel and Lawyer Dr. Salomon Kinsbrunner became deputy chairman. Alexander Langberg was general secretary. With this leadership, the society reached the high point of its activity. Perlstein and Langberg were sent to Siberia by the Russians in 1940 and died there.

After the departure of Hellmann, the musical directorship lay in the hands of Prof. Krämer. He was followed by Prof. Schwarzmann, opera singer Gutmann and in 1927, Prof. George Pavel who directed the choir until activities ceased in 1933.

Besides Yiddish and Hebrew folk songs and psalms, works of international significance were performed among which were: Mendelssohn, Psalm 95 and Song of Praise. The latter was performed on December 11, 1927 in honor of the president of the Zionist World Organization, Dr. Chaim Weizmann who was in Czernowitz at that time and who expressed his heart felt appreciation to all the singers and the conductor. In May, 1927 the choir performed the 9th Symphony at the Beethoven Festival, in 1928 they performed Haydns “the Seasons,” 1921 the oratorio “Elijah” by Mendelssohn, and in 1932 Haydn's “Creation.”

Some famous singers emerged from Hasamir's school including opera singer Slava Schevitz (daughter of the chief cantor Schchter of the Czernowitz temple, Rachel Kozenn, who today works as an opera singer in Detroit, the singer Friedel Gold who lives in Israel, the tenor Dori Schächter, Osterer (who later became Chief Cantor Ostrov), Wand, Kamener, Sabath, Heitner who with his songs, “When You Are Young, the World Belongs to You” and A Song Goes around the World became world famous, radio singer, opera tenor and film actor Joseph Schmidt who unfortunately died young (1944), tenor Lasar Herling who lives in Israel and since 1925 has repeatedly appeared as a soloist as well as being a excellent interpreter of Yiddish and Hebrew folks songs and singing the tenor part in international music productions, further Srul Rosenbach, Benjamin Rosenbach and Leiser Rosenbach and Mosche Rosenbach (who died in Israel in 1958) who as soloists and brilliant interpreters of Yiddish and Hebrew songs enjoyed general admiration (they are in Israel today), and also the bassist Jakob Laufer, Mathias Schächter, D. Pesate, among others.

The piano accompaniment in all the concerts was selflessly played by the excellent pianist, Mrs Bianca Neubergr-Krämer (today in Israel), Prof. Alfred Adler and Mrs. Weingarten-Milch.

Translation of foreign language texts into Hebrew was done by Prof. Rabinowicz who died recently in Israel, Dr. Josef Bierer and Prof. Dr. Menscher.

Dr. Heinrich Rubel (Tel-Aviv)

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