By Seymour "Sy" Brody
Judith Raskin was one of America's greatest lyric sopranos of the twentieth century. She was not only famous for her voice but also for her acting.
She was born on June 21, 1928, to Lillian and Harry A. Raskin. Her mother was a grade school teacher and her father was a high school music teacher. It was her father who aroused Judith's interest in music. As a child, she studied the violin and piano. Later, singing became the focus of her musical interest. She graduated Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, New York, in 1945, and then entered Smith College in Northhampton, Massachusetts where she majored in music. She started taking singing lessons while at college. After graduation, she continued taking lessons as her voice displayed great warmth and artistry. She won the Marian Anderson award for 1952 and 1953. She began making appearances on the concert stage throughout the country.
Raskin first received national recognition when in 1957 she sang in the televised American premier performance of Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites." In July of 1957, she performed a concert version of Puccini's "La Boheme" with the Symphony of the Air in New York City's Central Park. After many concerts, she joined the New York City Opera Company and made her debut in Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte" in 1959.
In February, 1960 she sang the title role in Douglas Moore's "Ballad of Baby Doe" for the New York City Opera. The Herald Tribune reviewer thought that her beauty, acting and great voice made it hard to believe that she could be the "sweetheart" of miners on Colorado.
The pinnacle of her career came on February 23, 1962, when Raskin made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in the role of Susanna in Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro." She was hailed by the critics for her outstanding performance.
Through the years she continued singing in concerts, ensembles and in operas. She felt that Strauss and Mozart roles were the best for her voice. During this period, she campaigned for more opera companies in the cities. She was quoted as saying "What we get Is well trained American singers with no place to go. The only way to become professional is to perform."
She married Dr. Raymond A. Raskin on July 11, 1948. They had two children, Jonathon, who became a medical internist, and Lisa, who was an associate professor of psychology at Amherst College. Through careful planning, Judith Raskin managed to have a happy marital and family life as well as a career.
She became an instructor at the Manhattan School of Music. In 1979, she taught at the 92nd Street YM-YWHA, where she sang the role of Pearl, the rabbi's wife in the new opera "The Golem."
Raskin was active in many music advisory boards, the Young Concert Artists, the National Opera Institute and the National Endowment of the Arts. During her career, she recorded for Columbia, London, Decca, RCA Victor and CRI Records.
Judith Raskin died on December 21, 1984, after a long struggle with cancer. Services were held at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City where she was eulogized as being one of the finest artists of our time who could be emulated by other future Jewish aspirants of the concert and opera stage.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
Source: Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America.