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[Page 49]


by Joseph Chrust

Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides

[The cantors described in this article include only those about whom information is available. Others continue to be anonymous for the time being].

Walter Dembitzer

The December, 1934 issue of the Community Newspaper (#70) announced the sudden death of cantor Walter Dembitzer who served the Katowice community as cantor for over 10 years and as a teacher in the Hebrew school.

Walter Dembitzer was a scion of an old Rabbinic family and was the son of the Rabbi of Krakow, Pinhas Dembitzer.

An obituary in in the Yiddish language monthly “Di Hazonim Welt” (The Cantorial World) of January, 1935 follows: “We have received the sad news from Katowice that the well known cantor of that city, W. Dembitzer, passed away unexpectedly, at a young age. Cantor Dembitzer had a powerful and pleasant voice and was a singer. He was a dedicated member of the “Organization of Cantors and Conductors” in Poland as well as contributor to “The Cantorial World”. We mourn his untimely death and extend our deepest sorrow and sympathy to the family. The Editors”

kat049.gif No caption (Obituary notice of Walter Dembitzer) [24 KB]
No caption [Obituary notice of Walter Dembitzer]

Cantor Josef Wolkowski

kat050c.jpg The cantor Josef Wolkowski   [20 KB]
The cantor Josef Wolkowski

In March, 1932 the Katowice community celebrated the 70th birthday of its main cantor, Josef Wolkowski. The official Newspaper published an appreciation penned by Rabbi Kalman Chameides to celebrate this milestone from which we learn a few particulars about him.

He grew up in the district of Posen and on his 70th birthday, he celebrated 50 years as cantor, 33 of them serving the Katowice community.

Cantor Wolkowski also served as the community ritual slaughterer (shochet), mohel (circumciser), teacher, and educator.

Cantor Wolkowski immigrated to Palestine before the outbreak of the second world war. In 1934, the position of Mohel was filled by the late Shmuel Hoffen, father of Ms. Cila Katriel.

Cantor Jehoshua Rosenzweig

kat050a.jpg Third from the left  the cantor Koswicki. Second from the left  the cantor Jehoshua Rosenzweig (from Akiva Zimmerman's collection)  [25 KB]
Third from the left the cantor Koswicki.
Second from the left the cantor Jehoshua Rosenzweig

(from Akiva Zimmerman's collection)

kat050b.jpg The cantor Jehoshua Rosenzweig  [10 KB]
The cantor Jehoshua Rosenzweig

Jehoshua Rosenzweig was born in Bochnia near Krarow in Galicia in 5669 (1909). He studied in a cheder and a yeshiva and in his youth joined the Belz chasidim. He studied to become a shochet and cantor and served in that capacity in the town of Zywic, in Galicia. He then served as cantor in the Great Synagogue in Katowice.

In 5698 (1938), Rosenzweig immigrated to Palestine and served a number of congregations there. His cantorial leadership of prayers in the Jeshurun synagogue in Jerusalem received much praise including that of the well known cantor, Herman Judlowker who described it as the “voice of the soul”. Rosenzweig managed to acquire an entrance visa to Palestine for his wife and children but they were unable to leave Poland. After the war he learned that his family had perished in the holocaust and he remarried. Thereafter he served as a cantor in the Karmiah synagogue in Haifa and the Great Synagogue of Ramat Gan. During the days of the British mandate in Palestine, he made many appearances on the Voice of Jerusalem.

In 5708 (1948), Rosenzweig moved to Canada and obtained a position in the Chevra Kadisha Bnei Yaakov synagogue. In 5732 (1972) when he retired, he returned to Israel and sang in various synagogues, concerts, and radio broadcasts. He returned to his previous position in Canada, when the synagogue could not get a replacement for him. Illness finally forced him to retire from the cantorate.

Rosenzweig was a talmid haham and devoted specific time to the study of Torah. He wrote the introduction to a book about cantors and cantorial music in Montreal. It is worthwhile to quote a few sentences from it: “With the revival and establishment, with G-D's help, of the State of Israel in our day, we have been privileged to see the blending of the Diaspora. We hope that Israel will become a spiritual center for the entire Jewish nation and that it will become a spiritual inspiration for the remnant of the house of Israel in the Diaspora. We hope that a single unifying style will eventually be created In the field of cantorial and Jewish music”.

Cantor Jehoshua Rosenzweig died in Montreal in the month of Elul, 5743 (1983).

kat051.gif Tune: Lewandowski. Sung by Israel Tajtelbaum  [15 KB]
Tune: Lewandowski. Sung by Israel Tajtelbaum
(a member of the synagogue choir in Katowice)
Performed by Esty Gilad-Szajnberg

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