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New York - Velvel Pasternak, Who Worked To Preserve Yiddish, Chasidic, Jewish Musical Heritage, Dies At 86

Published on: June 12, 2019 10:00 AM
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Velvel Pasternak (Photo montage by Naava Pasternak Swirsky)Velvel Pasternak (Photo montage by Naava Pasternak Swirsky)

New York - Musicologist and publisher Velvel Pasternak, who published more than 150 volumes of Jewish music, has died.

Pasternak, who also conducted and arranged music, died on Tuesday in New York City at the age of 86.

He founded Tara Publications in 1971. The goal of the company was the publication, preservation and dissemination of the heritage of Jewish music, the company’s website says.

The earliest publications were collections of Hasidic songs based on recordings arranged and conducted by Pasternak. These were followed by Israeli, Yiddish, Klezmer, Choral, Cantorial and Instrumental music collections. He also published anthologies of Sephardic music, including Ladino, Spanish-Portuguese, and music from Bosnia, Sarajevo, and Calcutta. He also published a volume of Holocaust music.


Pasternak was born in Toronto to Polish immigrant parents. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva University and studied at the Juilliard School, and received a Master’s in music education from Columbia University.

He realized in the late 1960s that there was a need for books of Hasidic music with melody lines and chords after being contacted by the families of Orthodox Jewish brides-to-be who found that the bands they wanted to hire to play at their weddings only knew one or two Jewish songs.

Over the years, he moved from printed books to e-books, and from cassettes and CDs to MP3s. He later added downloadable sheet music. Last year, to mark 50 years since the publication of his first Jewish music book, he published “The Jubilee Songbook,” including 240 selections from his previously published music books, providing an overview of popular Jewish music of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Some of the Hasidic recordings of the early 1960s, recorded with “The Velvel Pasternak Chorus”Some of the Hasidic recordings of the early 1960s, recorded with “The Velvel Pasternak Chorus”

In a blogpost to mark his 50 years in Jewish music publishing, his daughter Shira Pasternak Be’eri noted that his work was significant in “preserving an entire heritage that had never been documented by anyone else.”

He is survived by his wife, Goldie; five children, and grandchildren. Burial was in Israel.

The family setup a memorial page 

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Read Comments (4)  —  Post Yours »


 Jun 12, 2019 at 10:30 AM woodmerejoe Says:

A great man
He shall be missed


 Jun 12, 2019 at 11:18 AM alterknaker Says:

I thoroughly enjoyed his music, I'll miss him,


 Jun 12, 2019 at 12:57 PM shimonyehuda Says:

Baruch Dayan Emes


 Jun 12, 2019 at 03:50 PM Cricket Says:

Not to mention we otherwise wouldn’t have antibiotics


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