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New York - Prominent Israeli Cantor Mordechai Sobol Passes Away In NY At 66 After Sudden Illness

Published on: September 16, 2018 09:01 AM
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New York - An icon in the world of cantorial music passed away suddenly yesterday, just days after leading a Long Island congregation in prayer on Rosh Hashana.

Cantor Mordechai Sobol was hospitalized after suffering a severe post-Rosh Hashana stroke, passing away after Shabbos at the age of 67.  According to B’Chadrei Charedim (http://bit.ly/2QFrjPQ), Sobol showed no signs of illness when he davened for the amud at Temple Israel of Great Neck on Rosh Hashana.

Sobol was born in Israel and was the son of Cantor Meir Sobol who received his musical training from the father of the Belzer Rebbe.  Meir Sobol began studying cantorial music under Cantor Shlomo Ravitz at the age of eight and earned his doctorate in Jewish music.

Sobol, who was also an extremely talented conductor, was known for singlehandedly reviving cantorial music throughout the world, said Park East Synagogue Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky. 


While previously cantors were accompanied by a pianist when they sang in concert, Sobol’s concerts featured full orchestras, drawing packed houses.  Director of the Yuval Symphony Orchestra, Sobol composed, orchestrated and arranged cantorial music.

In addition to collaborating with musical giants including Jan Peerce, and performing at concerts all over the world, Sobol nurtured many a promising young talent, including Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgott, Yaakov Lemmer, Chaim Adler, Zvi Weiss and Netanel Hershtik.

“There is not a young chazan today in a serious position that he didn’t help in some way,” Rogosnitzky told VIN News.  “He would bring them up for concerts and introduce them to the world and for many, that was their big break.  There were so many chazanim who came up through his stage.”

Rogosnitzky met Sobol in 1996 through his own efforts to breathe life into cantorial music.

“He reached out to me and I met him a year later in Israel,” recalled Rogosnitzky.  “I told him my dream of bringing chazanus to America and he told me if I wanted to bring more than two or three hundred people in for a concert I had to have an orchestra and to dream big.”

Several years later, Sobol led the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at the Metropolitan Opera House for a solo concert featuring Helfgot.  5,000 people attended the sold out event hosted by Rogosnitzky’s Cantors World, the largest cantorial concert in decades and the only concert to feature a single cantor at the legendary venue.

“He tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘remember what I told you – you have to dream big,’” said Rogosnitzky.

A tribute concert dedicated to the memory of Cantor Moshe Koussevitsky held at Lincoln Center’s at Avery Fischer Hall in 2007 had Sobol arranging a duet, with Helfgot singing live alongside a video of Koussevitzky.  It was a moment that Rogosnitzky remembered as “brilliant.”

Cantor Netanel Hershtik remembers Sobol as a musical genius, a walking encyclopedia of cantorial and Jewish music and a wonderful person.

“I will never forget the warm welcome he gave me on stage when I first performed with him in Man Auditorium in Tel Aviv,” said Hershtik.  “He was a mentsh.”

Sobol was awarded the Jerusalem Prize and the President’s Prize for Education. In his lifetime recorded numerous albums with well known Israeli singers include Haim Moshe and Yehoram Gaon.  He trained his son Ofir who is following in his musical footsteps.

In addition to his passion for music, Sobol was extraordinary dedicated to his homeland.

“He was a Jew and a Zionist with every bone in his body,” said family members.  “He received tens of offers to leave Israel and to serve as a chazan elsewhere but he refused them all.  He was worthy of the Israel prize and now he will be buried in Israel.”

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Read Comments (6)  —  Post Yours »


 Sep 16, 2018 at 09:41 AM YisRos Says:

Many of us found his orchestral arrangements overblown and only taking away from real chazzanus. Still sorry to hear though.


 Sep 16, 2018 at 10:12 AM AESCHW Says:

Is this a Conservative, "egalitarian" place?


 Sep 16, 2018 at 10:52 AM Anonymous Says:

Could someone explain what the father of the Belzer rebbe the Bilgorai rav had to do with chazunes.


 Sep 16, 2018 at 11:38 AM Masorti Says:

Reply to #2  

Is this a Conservative, "egalitarian" place?

Temple Israel of Great Neck is indeed a Conservative and egalitarian congregation. Hazzan Sobol had sung there for 26 years on the High Holidays.


 Sep 16, 2018 at 11:49 AM Frish Says:

Reply to #1  
YisRos Says:

Many of us found his orchestral arrangements overblown and only taking away from real chazzanus. Still sorry to hear though.

Would explain it to u
But per ur nasty comment u seem to be tone deaf
This guy was a musical genius


 Sep 16, 2018 at 04:04 PM JCSHOULSON Says:

Video is obviously an Orthodox shul in Israel.


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