Avrohom Adler

Chazan Avrohom Adler1916 -2003

Chazan Avrohom Adler
1916 -2003

Chazan Avrohom Adler was born on June 1st 1916 in Sarasau, near Sighet. It was then part of Hungary,  but at present time it’s part of Romania. His father, Shmuel ben Yaakov Adler, was a veterinarian in Iapa, Sarasau and Campulung la Tisa. From his mother’s side he was a cousin of Elie Wiesel.

Avremele had his primary education at the Cheder in the town of his birth, after which the family moved to Sighet around 1928. Here he studied at several Yeshivot and started to study music on the side with Chazzan Mendel Hörer. Chazzan Hörer was the Chazzan Rishon of the Great Synagogue of the orthodox community of Sighet and took Avrum under his wings at age 15 in 1931, after a Chanuka concert. He showed great talent and at age 20 he was sent to Chernivtsi to study with the famous Pinchos Spektor (1872-1951). To earn a living he worked as a religious teacher, cloakroom boy at the Yiddish Theatre and sang in the local choirs.

In 1938 he was inducted in the Romanian Army for military service, after which he returned to Sighet in 1940 and became Chazzan of the Great Synagogue. WWII brings an abrupt stop to his rising career, when on June 10th 1942 he is forced by the Hungarian Army to work in one of their labour camps. Together with thousands of other Jewish man he had to work behind the front and was sent througout the entire USSR. At one point he was sent to a prisoners camp in Stalingrad by the Red Army. Here Chazzan Adler gets typhus and becomes very ill. He is transported to a camp in Siberia and in the Spring of 1946 he is send to a labour camp in Azerbaijan. As a Chazzan he is able to become a member of the Artist Group and succeeds in getting less heavy labour. When he is set free in August of 1948 he is physically broken nevertheless. He returns to Sighet in search for his family, but discovers that all members were murdered in May 1944 in Auschwitz and also suffers a psychological breakdown. By the help of a few far relatives that remain he is able to obtain a position as Chazzan of the Malbish Arumim shul in Bucharest.

In 1950 he immigrates to Israel with a boat from the harbor of Contaza, Romania. In Israel he is welcomed by Yaakov Katz, a representative of the City Council of Haifa, Poalei Agudat Yisrael. Mr. Katz is able to arrange him a position at the Central Synagogue (Beth Haknesseth Hamerkasi) of Haifa. Later on Chazzan Adler gets a position at the Carmia Synagogue. He also gets appointed Chazzan of the Israeli Marine and also performs on the local  radio, where he works as a music editor  on the side. In Israel he meets his wife, Hilda Miller, who is also a Holocaust survivor from Vienna and lost most of her family too. In 1955 they marry and shortly thereafter Chazzan Adler accepts a position as Chazzan Rishon of the Carlton Synagogue in Melbourne, Australia. In 1958 he is appointed Chazzan Rishon of the newly erected Allwood Synagogue in that same city.

In 1974 Chazzan Adler and his wife undertook a journey around the globe for three months and in Vienna he meets his childhood friend, Eliyahu Gutmann, who at that time is Chazzan Rishon of the Wiener Stadttempel. Through his meeting with Chazzan Gutmann he gets invited to aply for this position by the Jweish Council of Vienna. Chazzan Adler obtains the position the following year and from 1975 until his retirement in 1993 he is ‘Oberkantor’ of the Wiener Stadttempel. After his retirement Chazzan Adler and his wife kept living in Vienna, since Mrs. Adler-Miller was born there and they had no children and very little family. After the passing of his wife Chazzan Adler moved into an apartment of a retirement home of the ‘Israelischen Kultusgemeinde Wien’. Here he passed away on November 28th 2003, at age 87. He was buried in the family grave at Bnei Barak, Israel.

Chazzan Adler was a pioneer for Chazzonus, especially for the Jewish community in Australia. He functioned as a bridge for both the old and the new as the Western European and Eastern European style of Chazzonus. He was a traditional Eastern European post-War Chazzan, who tried to combine the many different musical styles and traditions he had come accquainted with in his life, to enrich the musical tradition for next generation. He played a major role in reviving Chassidic melodies from the Romanian areas of Maramures, Galicia and Bukovina. He promoted these ‘lost’ nigunim and ‘Golden Age’ Chazzonus throughout the globe by his many services, concerts, radio performances and lectures. He made numerous recordings of historical relevance, on which his rich tenor voice can be heard in all its beauty. Furthermore he left behind a massive collection of sheet music and is the author of ‘Cantoralische Recitativen’, dedicated to the musical legacy of liturgical music and Jewish folk melodies from the Maramures area.