The Men Who Spoke To God

November 15, 2019 in Hazzan Asa Fradkin


When I was a boy, my grandparents were my most significant Jewish influence. We always spent parts of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur with them, going to the great shul on Hooks Ln in Baltimore, Beth El.

The Rabbi then was Mark Loeb, an exceptional human being who had rare oratory skills and was a living legend until his untimely death almost ten years ago. The Hazzan was Saul Hammerman, one of four brothers, all Hazzanim.

I couldn’t stand it, sitting there listening to the Hazzan singing on and on the same words! It just seemed like a gigantic show and I couldn’t wait to go back to my grandparents’ comfy apartment, have lunch and be with my family.

If I only knew what I was missing; I’ve never regretted my ignorance in those years more than I have these past few weeks.

That’s because I’ve been teaching a class for Scolnic entitled “Davening with the Divine”, a look at how the greatest Hazzanim of the Cantorial Golden Age ( 1920’s-1950’s) approached their art form, the liturgy and God.  What did these great Cantors do with their voices as they approached God?

Cried, whispered, deliberated, wailed; expressed the gamut of human emotion in a voice that could have only come from God Godself.

How could I have known that, sitting in that great sanctuary as a 9 year old boy? Well, if I had grown up in a home in Boro Park, I might have, but more to the point, I am saddened that I could not appreciate the brilliance, the utter humanity that Saul Hammerman put into his High Holiday Davening.

The tradition of Hazzanut may never return to the pulpit as a mainstay of Jewish culture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the magnitude of it’s role in expressing the wishes of the Jewish soul.

Enjoy the beauty of these selections by two of the greatest voices of the Golden Age. I have no doubt that Cantor from my childhood had their voices in his heart as he davened his Tfilot.

May the memories of those sweet singers who spent their lives speaking to God, eternally be a blessing and inspiration.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hazzan Fradkin


Leibele Waldman- Rtzeh from Shabbat Evening-


Moishe Oysher: