Moshe Preis

MOSHE PREIS 1914 - 1999

1914 – 1999

(Contributed by Mr Jeffrey Lieuwen)

Chazzan Moshe Preis was born in Lodz, Poland on May 15, 1914. His father, Shlomo Aryeh Preis, died when he was a small child. To make some money, he would sing in the courtyards of apartment blocks and people would throw down a few coins. This is how his potential as a Chazzan was discovered. The news of this “Wunderkind” traveled quick and far, since in 1933, at age 19, he was offered a position at the Kacinczy Shul in Budapest (the largest Orthodox shul in Budapest at that time).In Budapest young Moishele stayed at the home of Mr. Yitzchok Pollak, one of the leaders of the Jewish community there. Since the Kazinczy Shul was an Orthodox shul, the fact that Chazzan Preis wasn’t married, was a bit of a problem. Chazzan Preis was told that he could not lead services for Rosh Hashono if he was not married. Mr. Pollak had a daughter called Raizele (Rosa) and he asked her to introduce the young Chazzan to some of her friends, in order to find him a potential wife. Moshe told them it wasn’t necessary, as he had already decided he liked Raizel and the two got married in the courtyard of the Kazinczy Shul in the summer of 1934. They lived on Wesselenyi utca, a block from the shul.

In 1938 Chazzan Preis traveled to Manchester, to officiate at the wedding of one of his congregant’s children, who was to marry a British Jew. Upon hearing him sing, he was offered a position at the Central Synagogue. With the threat of WWII in his mind, Chazzan Preis was smart enough to accept the offer. So the Preis family (which was enriched with two sons in the meantime) left Budapest in 1939. The entire family in Poland was killed in the Shoah. Chazzan Preis stayed at the Central Synagogue until 1951, when he accepted a position in the U.S.A.

From 1951-1953 Chazzan Preis served at Congregation B’nai Yehuda in Brooklyn, after which he was hired by the Mosholu Jewish Center in the Bronx. He stayed there until 1968.  In 1968 he was offered the position at Schara Tzedeck Synagogue in Vancouver. Chazzan Preis graced the pulpit there for over 20 years, after which he retired. After his retirement he and his wife lived in Baltimore and Florida. Chazzan Preis died in Baltimore on April 18, 1999, after a short sudden illness. He was just short of his 65th wedding anniversary. He was buried in New York.

Due to the fact that Chazzan Moshe Preis was a very humble man, he never recorded professionally. He posessed a very rich tenor voice, similar to the great Chazzan Moshe Koussevitzky. Fortunately there are a few rare live recordings, which show his vocal artistry.  One of them is a Maariv concert at Congregation Anshe Sfard, affectionately called the Sefardishe Shul.