Noach Zaludkowski

Noach Zaludkowski 1859 – 1931

Noah Zaludkowski was one of the most prominent Chazanimof Lithuania who rose to fame while still a young man, and who influenced Chazanuth in Poland.He became famous at first as a young talented Chazan, and later on as a trainer for Synagogue Choral directors, and a teacher of many Chazanim.

Born in a small town “Dwartz” in the district of Grodna, among the Intelligencia and Lamdanim of Lithuanian Jews, he was endowed with many qualities, a Talmudic Scholar, a natural sweet singer, and a man of piety. He combined knowledge of the Torah with the task of Avodath Hakodesh, and endeared himself to all who knew him as an exemplary and a sincere Shaliach Tsibur. He possessed a deep love for the study of the Torah, for Zionism and the people of Israel.

The Jews in Lithuania, in spite of their poverty were a special kind of people. They always strove to acquire knowledge, they had an aptitude for Lamdanuth, and idealism in life. Their moto was “Torah im Derech Eretz”. They were people who were embellished with idealism and enlightenment, refinement and kindness. When Zionism was in its infancy the Lithuanian Jews adopted it and combined it with the Torah. Hence came the movement of the Mizrachi and its ideal; “Eretz Israel according to Torath Israel”.

To be born in such an environment and coming from a family of great scholars, it was only natural that a child would grow up with an ambition to become a Rabbi or at least with the desire to be a Lamdan.

Noah Lieder, like many other children began his education in the Cheder as a child of five. He showed his eagerness to study with enthusiasm. At the same time he also had a talent for singing, which excited many who heard him. They all prophesised to his parents that one day he would become a good Chazan. When he reached the age of ten he was ready to join a Junior Yeshiva. His father sent him away to a place where he would be taught by well known Rabbanim, to gain a place later on to a higher Yeshiva. At the early age of twelve he studied in a Yeshiva in Slonim. While living away from home having his meals like all the others boys in strange homes, he became very ill.

His father who was a Talmid Chacham and an excellent Menagen, attended at his bedside. While spending most of the day at his son’s bed, the father sang to him many well known compositions of Chazanuth, to which Noah listened with interest. These melodies inspired the young boy and sunk into his memory. When he recovered from his long illness, he felt a desire to learn himself to sing all those compositions. It was a desire which clashed with his true wish to continue in his arduous studies in the Talmud.

It was customary in those times, that a young lad after the age of thirteen should be engaged to somebody’s daughter; even though they had never seen each other. Noah Zaludkowski being a bright Yeshiva pupil with excellent recommendations, became a ‘Choson’ soon after his Bar Mitzvah. Of course he had to continue his studies. After that he felt a responsibility to engage himself in the study of the Talmud with even greater rigour. However he soon realised that more than often he was in need to support himself financially. So he endeavoured to earn some money as a Chazan. Wherever there was a need for one, he offered himself to officiate. From time to time he went to other cities and made himself a name as an excellent Ba’al  Tephila. While he was in other places he never wasted his time but used to enter the local Beith Hamedrash and sit to learn with eagerness so as not to miss his Yeshiva studies.

Very soon he made a name for himself as a talented Chazan, and some communities approached him to accept a position as a permanent Chazan. Having in mind that he was about to become married soon, he reluctantly agreed to an offer on a temporary basis.

At the age of eighteen Noah Lieder was about to become married. To his wedding were invited over a hundred and fifty Rabbanim and heads of Yeshivoth. Among them was the famous head of the Yeshiva of Meer, R’ Chaim Leib. The wedding celebration was a most joyful occasion and lasted throughout the traditional seven days.

When he reached the age of nineteen he accepted a full time position as Chazan in a town called Meitchet. A year later he went to a neighbouring town Slonim. However, Noah Leider, as a born musician was always eager to learn, was not satisfied with the little knowledge he had in Chazanuth, and went to a well known Cantor Moshe Abeliev, in Smargon to study music with him.

A few years later, he had the opportunity to appear in Wilna the Capital of Lithuania where many Cantors made their debut. His success was immense. Many Gabaim were fighting for him to accept a position in their Synagogue. The people did not stop talking about him.

However, Noah Lieder did not like to live in a great city. He loved the warm hearted people of the provincial towns. At that time he was in search of a steady position and his first choice was in the city LIDA where he rapidly gained the love and affection of all the Community. Hence his nickname which was attached to him for the rest of his life, Noah Lida (Lieder).

While he served in Lida, he befriended the local Rabbanim and especially Rabbi Isaac Reiness who was the well known Mizrachi leader and Zionist. Noah Zaludkowski became a staunch zionist, a supporter of the religious zionist movement, the Mizrachi. Later on he composed many Hebrew songs and one of them was even chosen to be the Anthem of the Zionist Congress: S’U TZIONA NET VADEGEL which is until today a very well known Hebrew song.

Noah Lieder’s name had become famous and known far from Lida. After three years he received a call from the city of Grodno, where he had conquered the hearts of his people. It is told that after he recited the Mussaf Kedusha, on his first appearance, the people were so excited with his rendering, that many of them burst out in spontaneous applause, a thing which was not heard of in a Shool.

However, Noah did not stay long in Grodno. After gaining more experience and having established himself as an accomplished Chazan, He decided to go on a tour to various cities and other countries. In every place where he came to daven, he left a tremendous impression as a Chazan who sang with his heart and soul. A Chazan who awakened in the hearts of his listeners the feelings of fulfilment and contentment, that their prayers were presented to the Almighty with fervour and sweetness. Their greatest satisfaction was that they had heard a Chazan who had the true religious convictions of a Shaliach Tsibur Be’Emuna.

While he was on his tour, he received calls from England and America, but he was reluctant to travel overseas.

He did not want to became a wanderer, but rather to settle down in a place where he could develop his talent in music and compose liturgical compositions. For a while he was Chazan in Brisk (Lithuania) and it looked as if he had been almost in all the cities in that country. But nowhere did he find a place which would provide him with the needs and the desires he longed for, until he received a call from ‘Kalish’ in Poland where he found his fulfilment. It was a well established Congregation with a large choir, and their he remained for 40 years of his life, except during the years of the first world war. In Kalish he was the Authority for Chazanuth, there he trained and taught Chazanim, and choir Masters.

Many Chazanim received their training from him. Among them were, Jacob Wasilkowski, Aaron Katchka, and the famous Conductors, David Eisenstadt, and Leo Low, and not least his eldest son, Elias (Eliyahu) (1888-1943) who was a great Chazan in his own right. Another famous choir conductor who worked with Zaludkowski was Abraham Zevi Davidowitz. In the biography of Davidowitz we are told that his first post as Synagogue choir Master was in Kalish with the Great Chazan Zaludkowski. “This Chazan, (Noah) was a great Lamdan and an enlightened person, who saw in his art of Chazanuth, a national mission. He demanded a great deal from his Choir Master, and always came to him with great demands, to enrich the Sabbath programme. His house was always a meeting place for scholars, and for the intelligent people of the town, who discussed all the problems of the Jewish people.”

His son Eliyahu was a Chazan, a singer, and a teacher of music who learned his art from his father, and from the Chazan of Czenstochov, Abraham Behr Birenbaum. All the sons of Chazan Zaludkowski, received a very good education in both Jewish knowledge and a wide musical training, and were sent off to European countries to accomplish their musical training.

I have known three of Noah Lieder’s sons; Cantor Joseph, Doctor Saul, a Pediatrician a’id Cantor Jacob, who is the only one alive, living in Liverpool.

Jacob was married at the Southport Synagogue, where I was Chazan 50 years ago, before I studied medicine. Cantor Joseph was married over 50 years ago in Newcastle and my Father and Mother acted as their Unterfurers.

Chazan Pinchik, whom I met many times during my visits to the States, told me, that he met Noah Zaludkowski in Rostow-on-Don where he heard both Eliyahu and Noah Daven. That was during the first world war. Pinchik was very impressed with the ‘Zugechts’ of the old man, and it left him with an indelible impression.

Cantor Jacob Zalud told me, that Pinchik tried to join his brother’s choir (Eliyahu’s) but was not accepted because his voice was too small. However the old man (Chazan Noah) invited Pinchik to sing for him in the woods outside the city of Rostow, and he loved Pinchik’s singing so much, that he asked him to sing again and again. Noah Zaludkowski returned to his post in Kalish after the war, and served there for forty years.

He died in July 1931 whilst visiting his son Elias, who was Cantor of Shaarey Zedek at that time.

(This article was written by Dr J Gottlieb and was first published in
the Cantors’ Review, April 1982)