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The twenty-third of Sivan is the yahrzeit of Rabbanit Miriam Abuhatzeira (1922-1985). Born Miriam Amsalem – her father Rav Eliyahu Amsalem was a rav in Algeria – she became the Baba Sali’s second wife at the age of fifteen (later he took a third wife). They had four children. She moved with the Baba Sali to Israel in 1951 and later to France, Tunisia, Morocco and back to Israel.

A year and a half after the Baba Sali’s passing she was traveling from Netivot to Ashdod to visit a relative who was sitting shiva. Also in the car were her daughter-in-law as well as the third wife of the Baba Sali, Rabbanit Simi. The car ran a red light and hit a bus. Rebbitzen Miriam died in the accident and the other occupants of the car suffered head injuries but survived.


She was known for being available to offer advice to women.

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The twenty-fifth of Sivan is the yahrzeit of Chazan Yossele Rosenblatt (1882-1933). Born in Russia to a long line of chazanim, by the age of four he was accompanying his father as he led the davening. In 1889 the family was deported from Russia due to his father being an Austrian citizen and they moved to Sadigur. On the advice of the Sadigerer Rebbe, his father became an itinerant chazan, having great success singing in many large Jewish communities. In 1895 they settled in Vienna. Rosenblatt was invited to join the National Conservatory, but his father demurred as he wanted him to remain focused on chazzanus.

At the age of eighteen Rosenblatt married Toiba Kaufman and during the week of Sheva Berachos he signed a contract to be the chazzan in Munkatch. Munkatch was a very conservative community and Chazan Rosenblatt was concerned that that would prevent him from developing modern musical techniques. He decided to remain there for a year but after community leaders failed to hire the agreed upon choir for the Yamim Noraim he set his eyes on Pressburg.

Pressburg was a much more heterogeneous community and Rosenblatt was able to devote time to developing his musical skills and to travel to Vienna for more training. He developed a relationship with the local yeshiva and was very popular in the community. He published a book of Jewish music. In 1905 he recorded his first phonograph for Edison Records. The following year he left Eastern Europe for Hamburg and was appointed the Chief Chazan of the United Synagogues.

The transition to the very orderly German community was challenging. One issue was the fact that he and his wife had never received an official marriage certificate; in the Austro-Hungarian Empire a kesubah sufficed, but not in Germany. The Rosenblatts had to travel to England to have their marriage officially registered. He was also surprised when a woman in Hamburg reached out her hand to shake his. The style of music expected by the German Jewish community was very different from those of the Eastern European Yiddish speakers which required him to expand his repertoire.

In Hamburg, Chazan Rosenblatt was a frequent visitor to the theater and opera. He met Enrico Caruso, the famous opera singer, who came to hear him in shul. By 1912 a growing family of nine children, compounded with needing to support a widowed sister, led him to request a raise. He was turned down. He traveled to New York and was asked to try out for the position of chazan at Ohev Tzedek in Harlem. He was offered a contract of $2,400 annually, with the opportunity to make more money by officiating at weddings and funerals. On July 4 of that year his family arrived in the United States.

In New York his fame grew. Unlike in Hamburg where his contract prevented him from singing at concerts, in the United States he sang at countless events. The shul became the musical center for American Jewry. By 1922, he left Ohev Tzedek. For the Yamim Noraim he signed a contract with a group of shuls in Philadelphia for $15,000 to lead davening at the Metropolitan Opera. He rejoined Ohev Tzedek part-time for a salary of $10,000 annually.

In 1927 he left the position once again and traveled around the United States giving concerts. In Washington he met President Calvin Coolidge. Despite the fact that the concerts proved to be very lucrative, he felt that he wanted to remain in one place moving forward. In 1928 he signed a ten year contract with Congregation Anshe Sfard in Boro Park. However, with the stock market crash the following year, the shul was unable to fulfill the contract and he was out of work. He returned to Ohev Tzedek at a greatly reduced salary, but they, too, were unable to pay him and he was unemployed once again.

Over the years, Chazan Rosenblatt raised large sums of money for the needy. After WWI he worked with Nathan Straus to produce a series of concerts to raise money to assist war refugees. In both 1923 and 1928 he went on European concert tours that played before packed audiences. He was invited to invest in the launching of a Jewish newspaper, but was unaware that the papers that he signed made him personally responsible for all the debts the paper incurred. After the paper went under he was sued for $200,000 which forced him to declare bankruptcy. Despite that, he made every effort to pay back all the creditors including appearing on vaudeville shows to make a few extra dollars.

He was invited to act in the movie The Jazz Singer, but refused as he felt certain parts were sacrilegious and not befitting of a chazan. He did write some of the music for the movie and traveled to Hollywood to see the production. He met Charlie Chaplain who told him that he was a fan of the chazan’s records.

In 1933 Chazan Rosenblatt was invited to Palestine to act in a movie. He arrived to great fanfare shortly before Pesach. During his stay he led the davening all over Eretz Yisrael with large crowds coming to hear him. He spent a lot of time with Rav Kook. After filming one day by the Dead Sea he said that he wasn’t feeling well. He returned to his hotel in Yerushalayim, but died a few hours later.

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Chayim Lando is the practice manager at Maryland Neuro Rehab & Wellness Center and has been a Jewish educator for over three decades. His favorite activities are studying and teaching Talmud and spending time with his grandchildren.