My dear Holy Blossom congregants and friends,
It is with profound sadness and a heavy heart that I report to you the passing of my and our dear friend Professor Dr. Cantor Joe Levine z”l, on December 30, 2021. Joe was one of the most distinguished members of our Cantors Assembly. Cantor Joe Levine was one of my dearest and closest friends who guided mentored and was my personal teacher for many decades since my arrival to the USA.
Cantor Joe Levine was a devoted and loyal friend of Holy Blossom Temple. His constant visits to our congregation as a private worshiper on High Holidays Shabbat and festivals, as his gracious presence as a scholar in residence on several occasions, left a significant print on our congregation’s musical life. It was his influence and positive constructive inputs as to how when and what we would choose to offer and teach the congregation an authentic “Musical diet”, insisting on community participation through inspiration and skills of collective singing. He taught us how to create the sacred space in time through a meaningful high-level worship experience. “RISE AND BE SEATED” his second book was largely influenced by his personal experience at HBT, especially 2nd day RH and YK afternoon. It is then when he concluded: THE PARGDYM EXAMPLE OF A LIBERAL AND TRADITIONAL SYSTEM OF HOLY BLOSSOM TEMPLE” Joe developed much of his outlook on modern styles in Cantorial and Liturgical music taking in the high level and the musical sophistication he experienced here at Holy Blossom Temple.
Among his many accomplishments to mention only a few, Cantor Joe was the editor for many years of the Cantors Assembly Journal of Synagogue music. That was but one aspect of his accomplished career.
A disciple of Hazzan Abba Weisgal, Joe was also a first-rate pulpit Hazzan.
He received his Doctoral Ph.D. degree on the work of his teacher Abba Weisgal in 1981 from the Jewish Theological Seminar
Joe was a beloved instructor in the Cantorial School at JTS. Beyond that, he was an author, lecturer and even an artist. I personally have a large collection of incredible sketches he created for every occasion he saw fit. A book of his portraits was recently published by the CA depicting cantors and musicians in various moods.
I was privileged and honoured to be asked by the family of which we have been in close and deep friendship, to officiate and lead the funeral service.
This thought came to my mind as I began after chanting the opening Psalms.
“MISHICHMO VA’MA’ALAH” “HIGHER THAN YOUR STATURE”
“ATA ALITA AL KULANU” “YOU SURPASSED US ALL”
With your wit charm wisdom scholarship “MENCHLECHKEIT” kindness teachings writing endless publications and mostly the authentic and imaginable ingenuity of combining antiquity and modernity through the spine and thread of time and space.
Even as we socialized years after years we had some fiery discussions about what is trivial and what is of quality. There was never a moment of “SICHAH L’VATALAH” a trivial moment of discussion. Joe in his endless original imagination analyzed in a macro and micro way every nuance Gracenote as he did with a massive piece of a Liturgical text.
Joe’s favourite poem was Yehudah Haleivi’s “MI YITNEIENI” which I commissioned Hazzan Jerome Kopmar and was sung here at the opening of our YK afternoon service. Joe Asked that I sing his own abbreviated version of this complex composition at his funeral. I do it with the greatest of honour and I hope you hear its haunting whisper my dearest friend. Rest in Peace. TANUACH B’SHALOM
I will miss your loving guidance for the rest of my life.
Cantor Emeritus Beny Maissner