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Religious Education in Rzeszow

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Cantor Dov Menachem Konwiser (1887–1936)

by Cantor Herzl Konvisser

Translated by Ronley Konwiser

Cantor Dov (Bernard) Menachem Konwiser went through many transformations in his life. He was born in Minsk, Byelorussia (Belarus) in 1887. His exceptional vocal talents were discovered during his adolescence and he was accepted into the local school where he received education as well as training for cantor and choir.

When Dov Menachem matriculated, he travelled to Konigsberg where he was taught cantorial singing in the style of the famous cantor, Israel Weintraub, and learned musical concepts which widened his abilities within this profession.

On his return to Minsk at the beginning of the 20th Century, he at first worked as a choir master in the great synagogue of his home town, and was then promoted to the position of cantor in the Town of Kloavary.

The years of the First World War brought much suffering and misfortune to him and the Jews of the area. In 1922 –1925 he lived in the town of Zgierz, (that is close to Lodz) and from there he moved to Reisha.

After hearing him perform as Cantor on the pulpit, on one of the Sabbath eve prayers, he was accepted to be the cantor for the Reisha Synagogue. During that period, he devoted his time to training the choir with many of the compositions and prayers. The choir was extremely professional and of a very high standard. Besides being a cantor he also composed his own compositions that were sung in the choir. He sang his compositions, as well as the melodies of Sulzer with great feeling.

Cantor Konwiser served as Cantor in Reisha from 1925–1931. Like most of the Polish Jewry his salary was not sufficient, so in 1931 Cantor Konwiser left his family in Reisha for search of a better life for his family. He went to Cape Town, South Africa, where he was accepted as Cantor. He passed away in Cape Town in 1936. His wife Rosa Chaimova Konwiser passed away in Reisha in 1928. His son Herzl went with him to South Africa. Six daughters remained in Reisha. Rivka, Ester–Rachel, Yohevet, Feiga, Bella, and Basia.

Ester–Rachel Konwiser could be found in one of the cities in Russia, Herzl Konwiser settled in Johannesburg South Africa. The rest of the sisters were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust.

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Photo: the Cantor Dov Menachem Konwiser and his new choir, July 1931. Photographed: Haim Greenfield, Moshe Spiegel, The Cantor's son Herzl Konwiser, Shechter and others.

The following details were added by Cantor Herzl Konwiser's children in Israel and grand–niece in Russia: This article was originally prepared by Cantor Herzl Konwiser. Ester Rachel married in Russia where her descendants live today. Herzl married and raised a family in Johannesburg, and like his father, Herzl became a cantor. All his descendants today live in Israel.
(Signed) Ronley Konwiser, son of Cantor Herzl Konwiser. Israel. January 2015

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