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Pinchas Minkowski

MINKOWSKI, PINCHAS ("Pinie"; 1859–1924), Russian cantor and composer. He was born in Belaya Tserkov, Ukraine, where his father was the town cantor. Minkowski received his basic training from his father, and joined the choir of Nissan *Spivak ("Belzer") in Kishinev. At the age of 18, he was appointed Spivak's successor and three years later became chief cantor of the Choral Synagogue ("Chor-Schul") in Kishinev. After further study in Vienna, he sang in Kherson, Lemberg, and Odessa, and spent three years at the Kahal Adas Yeshurun Synagogue in New York, but was recalled to Odessa in 1892 as chief cantor of the Brody Synagogue, an office he held for 30 years. Minkowski had a tenor voice of natural sweetness though lacking in power. He avoided extraneous effects such as word repetition, falsetto, and needless coloraturas. A prominent member of the intellectual group which flourished in Odessa, headed by *Bialik, he lectured at the Jewish Conservatory, was chairman of the Ha-Zamir ("The Nightingale") musical society, and published many articles on ḥazzanut and Jewish music, in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German. After the Russian Revolution he left for the United States, where he continued to sing and lecture.

Many of Minkowski's compositions remained in manuscript and are preserved, with his papers, in the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem. His setting of Bialik's poem Shabbat ha-Malkah ("Sabbath the Queen"), to a chorale-like melody, became a much-loved song for Friday evening in Israel and in many communities and synagogues abroad.


Sendrey, Music, indexes; Friedmann, Lebensbilder, 3 (1927), 55; idem, Dem Andenken Eduard Birnbaums, 1 (1922), 131ff.; Di Khazonim Velt (Dec. 1933); Jewish Ministers-Cantors Association of America and Canada, Di Geshikhte fun Khazones (1924), 88.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.