David Eisenstadt (Ajzensztadt) (1890, Nasielsk, Poland - 1942, Death camp of Treblinka)

Composer and conductor. Was associated with the Great Synagogue in Tłomackie in Warsaw, where he was the music director of liturgy and the founder and conductor of the choir. The choir had a wide repertoire, including the world classics: works by Bach, Handel, and Haydn. Ajzensztadt frequently performed at the Warsaw Philharmonic, and recorded for the Polish Radio. During the war he led the choir in the Warsaw ghetto. He and his wife died in 1942 in the Death camp of Treblinka. Their daughter Mary (Marysia) Ajzensztadt known as the "ghetto’s nightingale” was a well-known singer. She was shot to death while trying to escape from the deportation train.

On 14 March at 1.05pm in the Clothworkers Concert Hall, Leeds University, I'm conducting a concert that will feature (to the best of my knowledge) the modern-day premiere of Dovid Ajzensztadt’s choral setting of “Chad Gadya”. I hope that some of you might be able to attend if you’re within travel distance! Do please let me know if you do, as I would be delighted to welcome you personally if possible.

The concert is the latest event under the auspices of the “Music, Memory and Migration” project hosted by the University of Leeds (http://www.mmm.leeds.ac.uk).

You may remember that I chanced upon the manuscript of “Chad Gadya” in Cape Town, South Africa, among the papers of Cantor Froim Spektor (formerly Chief Cantor of the Choral Synagogue, Rostov-on-Don). Spektor took up the post of Cantor at the New Hebrew Congregation, Cape Town, in 1928, taking a folder of manuscripts with him, which is preserved by his granddaughter in Cape Town. I’m extremely grateful to a number of you on this list, principally Bret Werb at the USHMM, for helping me authenticate the work. Only yesterday Bret tracked down the original programme of the concert at which the work was (presumably) premiered at the Tlomackie Street Synagogue, in Warsaw, in 1931.

Spektor’s copy is particularly interesting because it’s an early draft for a cappella choir, with a note (in Yiddish) from Ajzensztadt written on the title page in which he asks Spektor’s opinion of the piece (which says something about the esteem in which Spektor was held), and refers to the fact that both Witold Maliszewski (first Rector of the Odessa Conservatory) and Alexander Glazunov had approved of it. There are even short messages in Polish and Russian, apparently from from Maliszewski and Glazunov themselves, though neither in their own handwriting. The note also says that Ajzensztadt was working on the piano accompaniment, and we know from Fater’s account (again, thank you Bret) that the piece was eventually given with orchestra. It’s in 4 movements, and contains a “Talmudic Intermezzo”, for instruments alone (we will do it with simple string quartet accompaniment since the orchestral score is not preserved as far as I know), bearing a note from Ajzensztadt to the effect that he wanted to portray “the Jewish slaughterer” depicted in the text of Chad Gadya as merciful, not vengeful.

We'll also sing a lovely setting of “V’shomru” by Froim Spektor, and I’m hoping that his last surviving son will attend. There’ll also be music for male chorus by Salomone Rossi (“Al naharot bavel”) and Gideon Klein (“Prvni hrich”), and something rather more modern by non-Jewish composer Gregory Rose, “Sha'alu Shlom Yerushalayim”, for women's chorus, harp and piano.

Stephen Muir

En 1939, la synagogue Nożyk fait partie des cinq plus grandes synagogues de Varsovie. Elle est dévastée par les nazis en 1940, et sert d'écurie pour les chevaux et pour le stockage de produits alimentaires. Lorsque les allemands créent le ghetto de Varsovie, la synagogue se trouve dans la partie dénommée petit ghetto.
Le 20 mai 1941, les autorités allemandes autorisent l'ouverture de trois synagogues, dont la synagogue Nożyk. La cérémonie d'ouverture a lieu le jour de Roch Hachana. Le chantre David Ajzensztadt célèbre l'office, tandis que le professeur Meir Balaban, le nouveau rabbin de la synagogue, fait un discours bref et concis sur le "Mois de l'enfant" (Gazeta Żydowska 1941 nr 91/3). En juillet 1942, la synagogue est fermée, après la liquidation du petit ghetto. Elle se trouve alors dans la partie aryenne de la ville.
Pendant l'Insurrection de Varsovie, en août et septembre 1944, la synagogue est sévèrement endommagée lors des batailles de rue et les bombardements, mais l'édifice qui a été solidement construit, ne s'effondre pas.