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The Kusewicki brothers, Jewish cantors from the Vilnius region

by Dignity News
Those four brothers Kusewicki were from the town of Smorgonia. They turned out to be not only outstanding cantors, but also lyrical tenors, performing operatic repertoire.

Moshe, Jacob, Simcha and David Kusewicki descended from an Orthodox Jewish family, beginning their cantorial careers in Vilnius. Moshe (1889-1965) showed the greatest singing talent. He practised his oratorio vocals first in his hometown of Smorgonia and then in Vilnius, where he moved as a journeyman to learn the craft.

In 1925, his extraordinary talent was rewarded – Moshe first became cantor (Yiddish: chazan) at the Vilnius “Savel” synagogue and then at the Great Synagogue, replacing Gerszon Sirota, who was then internationally renowned. Three years later, Moshe was offered the opportunity to provide his vocal service at the Great Synagogue Templum in Warsaw. Soon, performing operatic repertoire as well, his voice too became internationally recognised. He was compared to Enrico Caruso. During the Second World War, he stayed in the Soviet Union, singing at the Georgian Opera in Tbilisi, among other places. Moshe returned to his country in 1946, but soon left for the USA, where he continued his singing career.

Moshe’s three brothers did not achieve such spectacular success. They were cantors in Kharkiv, Kremenets, Lviv, Lutsk, Rostov, and Vilnius. The youngest, Dawid (1911-1985), was the only one to receive a higher musical education, studying at the Vilnius Conservatory.

After the end of the Second World War, Jakub and Dawid also settled in the USA, while Simcha settled in South Africa. After the war, Dawid was cantor in a Brooklyn synagogue and taught it at the Jewish Liturgical Seminary in New York.

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