BDE: Cantor Moshe Stern, one of the most well-known Ashkenazi Chazanim, died at 87. He was known across the globe for his strong voice and emotional performance.
Stern was raised by his father, R’ Yisrael Stern, the head chazan at Har Tzion in Jerusalem. Stern was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1935. László (Benjamin) Stern, his older brother, served as Budapest’s chief cantor for many years.
He made his debut appearance as a chazan at 7, but the Nazi invasion of Hungary in 1944 ended his career. Stern sang in the Budapest Music Academy after escaping the Holocaust, and at the age of 12, he sang “El Maleh Rahamim” at a memorial service for Herzl.
Stern started working as a chazan at 17 in Ramle and afterward in Rehovot.
He was appointed principal cantor when the Heichal Shlomo shul was established in 1958, and hundreds would regularly swarm there to hear him sing the prayers.
The prayers were held in the entry hall until the Great Synagogue was finished in 1982 since the shul could not accommodate the large audiences.
In the Great Synagogue of Rehovot, Stern started his musical career as the chief cantor.
Later, he held the position of cantor at the Beth-El synagogue in Boro Park, New York, as well as in South Africa and the Heichal Shlomo synagogue in Jerusalem, where he rose to fame.
After cantor Moshe Koussevitzky passed away, Stern relocated to Johannesburg and took over as cantor at the Beth El synagogue in Boro Park, Brooklyn.
Rabbi Israel Schorr, the synagogue’s rabbi, said of Stern: “As shul rabbi, I heard the chazanim Mordechai Hershman, Berele Chagy, and Moshe Koussevitsky, but such a masterful rendition of Malchuyos Zichronos and Shofaros as I heard from Moshe Stern I have never heard before.”
Stern worked as Beth El’s cantor for eleven years before relocating to Israel and residing in Jerusalem’s Har Nof district.
He would keep traveling with Yomim Noraim, appearing at several concerts worldwide, including Sao Paolo, Brazil.
He hadn’t appeared as a chazan in the previous 20 years. In addition to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Stern is survived by his wife, Tziporah.
At 3:00 p.m., the levaya will occur at the Jerusalem Shamgar Funeral Home on Thursday.