Abraham Mordecai Himelsztejn


Abraham Mordecai Himelsztejn
1905 – 1974

Abraham Mordecai Himelsztejn was born in Warsaw on 16th December 1905. His father, Reuven Yehudah HaCohen was a Rosh Yeshivah in White Russia and his mother, Peshe, was renowned for her beautiful voice. This combination of Jewish study and music made a great impression on the young Himelsztejn. He sang in the choir of Chazan Yehosuha Reichstaler for some twelve years, from whom he absorbed the traditional melodies of the synagogue.

Himelsztejn studied with a number of very influential and important men in the world of Synagogue music including A. Davidovitz the celebrated conductor of the Zalman Nozhik Shul, M. Shneur, Izchak Schlossberg, conductor of the Jewish Theatre Orchestra, and David Eisenstadt, Choirmaster of the Tlomztzka Street Shul. He attended the State Academy for two years and conducted various choirs, sometimes accompanying the great Cantors of Vienna including Gershon Sirota.

In 1936 he accepted a call to become Choirmaster of the Rowland Street Synagogue, in Cape Town where he built for himself the reputation of being a fine conductor, composer and arranger of Synagogue music.

In 1942 he moved to the United Hebrew Congregation in Johannesburg where he served as Chazan Sheni/Choirmaster, first at the Yeoville Synagogue and then at the Great Synagogue in Wolmarans Street, where he remained for more than 25 years.

Chazan Himelsztejn published two books of his own compositions: LaChazan and Lamnatzeach. His compositions are notable for their emphasis on, not just fine Chazanut, but also on beautiful melodic lines, which is why they are still sung today by Chazanim all ovber the world.

He passed away in 1974 in Johannesburg at the age of 68 and is buried in West Park cemetery.