Yechiel Gildin

Yechiel Gildin

Yechiel Gildin
1914 – 1967

Cantor YECHIEL (IHIL) Gildin was born in Kishinev, Bessarabia in 1914. From the age of 4 he already showed an advanced ability to sing and from the age of 9 he became a meshorrer (choirboy) in the choirs of a number of cantors in Kishinev.  At 11 he commenced conducting services.Between the ages of 11 and 14 Cantor Gildin gave concerts throughout Bessarabia and Romania and was known as “The Wonder Child” with his magnificent alto voice.His cantorial training was supervised by some of the world’s greatest cantors in that area during Gildin’s youth. These included the legendary cantors Roitman, Steinberg and Kalechnik.

He received formal musical education at the Bucharest Conservatoire.

By the age of 18, his beautiful voice was characterised as “Lyric-Dramatic” and  in 1932, he led the choral high holiday services at the New Synagogue in the neighbouring town of Bendery. The following year, he led the choral high holiday services at the famous Hecker Synagogue in Kishinev where the great Cantor Rozumny had in the past graced the bimah. His fame spread through a series of concerts throughout Europe.

In 1941 Chazan Gildin was drafted into the Russian army. In 1944, he chanted the high holiday services in the Great Synagogue in Moscow, accompanied by a large choir. Later that year he moved to Chernivtsi (Czernowitz).

In 1946, as a Romanian citizen, he was entitled to  return to Bucharest and was appointed Cantor of the Russian Synagogue there where he served for two years.

In 1948 he moved to Brussels where he served at the Machzikei Hadass Shul until his emigration in 1949 to the USA.  There, he held various appointments; at Congregation Shomrei Emunah, Boro Park, Brooklyn, NY, Cong. Agudath Israel, Dorchester, Massachusetts and Cong. Beth Aaron, Detroit, Michigan.

In 1963, Cantor Gildin was appointed to the Beth Sholom Congregation in Washington DC. This is the largest Orthodox shul in Washington and was well known for decades for the top flight Chazzanim who officiated there, including Samuel Vigoda (1938-1939), Abraham Vigoda (1939-1946), Sholom Katz (1947-1957) and Samuel Taube (1958-1963.)  He davened there until 1967 when he suffered a massive heart attack on the seventh day of Pesach while officiating at services and passed away. He is interred in the congregation’s cemetery.

Cantor Gildin gave many concerts in America and also appeared on radio and TV. He passed away in 1967. His LP,  “Songs of the Ages” is in the JMI Library in London…it demonstrates his beauty of timbre across a wide range and also his skill at interpreting liturgical selections and Yiddish folk songs.

(My thanks to David Prager and Larry Shor for information in this biography)
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