Eshel, Yitzḥak

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ESHEL, YITZḤAK (1912– ), ḥazzan. Yitzḥak Eshel was born in Debrecen, Hungary. He studied in a ḥeder and in yeshivot, among them the Ḥatam Sofer Yeshivah in Bratislava (Pressburg). At the age of 19 he was appointed chief cantor in Munich, where he also continued to practice music and studied in the Conservatory. He served as cantor in Manchester and in his birthplace, Debrecen. In 1938 he was appointed cantor in the famous Nozyck Synagogue in Warsaw, but because of the antisemitic atmosphere he decided not to accept the position. In 1949 he immigrated to Israel where he became the cantor in the Great Synagogue in Ramat Gan. He became known throughout the country, officiating at prayer services and appearing in concerts in different parts of the country. He served as chief cantor of the Beth-El Synagogue in Tel Aviv, and in 1956 for a year was chief cantor of the Shomrei Hadass congregation in Antwerp. He moved to the United States and was appointed chief cantor of the Po'ale Zedeck Synagogue in Pittsburgh. When he returned to Israel in 1961 he was chief cantor of the central Hekhal Meir Synagogue in Tel Aviv, where he served until 1970. He founded a choir, which was led by the English-born director, Martin White. From 1970 he appeared in various synagogues in Israel and in the Diaspora and trained many young cantors. Yitzḥak Eshel has produced records of cantorial music and Yiddish songs. He is considered one of the creative cantors, while his original compositions are written in a traditional spirit. He published articles on cantorial music and other Jewish music in the journal of the Sha'arey Zedek Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

[Akiva Zimmerman]