BDE: Cantor Moshe Stern, A Legendary Voice In Boro Park of Yore
by YS Gold
Chazzanus aficionados around the world were saddened to learn of the passing of Cantor Moshe Stern, one of the most legendary Chazzonim in the last generation–considered among the cantorial giants, on par with the Koussevitzky brothers and Zebulun Kwartin.
Cantor Stern delighted Boro Park audiences for close to a decade from the amud at Congregation Beth El. As one chazzonus expert told BoroPark24, “He was a great chazzan, and an even greater bal nussach and baal tefillah.”
Cantor Stern was born in Budapest in 1935, where his father, Israel Stern, was then serving as the Chief Cantor. He was the youngest of eleven children, and grew up in an atmosphere steeped in the love for chazzonus from a young age, beginning to perform at the tender age of seven.
After miraculously surviving the Holocaust in Hungary, the family made their way to Eretz Yisroel with their surviving children. The Sterns were placed in refugee lodgings in the Talpiot section of Yerushalayim where father and son began singing together–and thus began to make his way in the world of cantorial music, a journey that would endure for more than seven decades.
Following impressive stints in Jerusalem and in Johannesburg, South Africa, Stern was called to the pulpit of Congregation Beth El. He would be succeeding the legendary Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky, not a simple act to follow.
But the Chazzan delivered, succeeding in moving hearts in tefillah between the years of 1968-1977.
Rabbi Israel Schorr, Beth El’s Rov for for than sixty (!) years told chazzonus expert and historian Akiva Tzimerman that he was privileged to be the Rabbi alongside such great chazzanim as Mordechai Hirshman, Berele Chaggai and Moshe Koussevitzky. But Moshe Stern’s rendition of malchuyos, zichronos, and shofros during mussaf on Rosh Hashanah was the finest he had heard. “I am so impressed with Chazzan Stern’s interpretation of this part of the liturgy that I have learned and used many of these themes in my own singing of these tefillos.”
Unfortunately for Boro Park, Cantor Stern was called to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he remained for decades, even as he toured the world, delighting audiences everywhere with his heartfelt renditions of the chazzonus classics, as well as his own compositions. Stern produced thirteen records of chazzonus selections over the decades.
Chazzan Stern will be remembered for his sweet voice, and the incredible heart that he invested in all of his tefillos.
Yehi zichro baruch.