BERELE KHAGI (CHAGY) (July 25, 1892-October 1, 1953)
He was born in the town of Dagde (Dagda), near Dvinsk (Daugavpils), Byelorussia, to a father who was an itinerant schoolteacher and a prayer leader. He studied with his father, later in the Dvinsk yeshiva. He was a synagogue choirist—initially with his father and later with cantors in Korsovke (Karsava), Dvinsk, and Riga. In 1911 he became a cantor in Smolensk. In 1913 he moved to the United States. He studied music in Detroit, Michigan, and in 1918 he graduated from the conservatory in Boston. He later served as a cantor in Boston, Detroit, and Newark, New Jersey. He was also a popular singer of Yiddish folksongs and songs drawn from modern Yiddish poetry. He wrote articles on the cantorial art and Jewish music in: Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), Der tog (The day), and Der amerikaner (The American), among others, in New York. Chapters from his memoirs were published in Di shul un khazonim-velt (The synagogue and the world of cantors) (Warsaw, 1936). In the 1930s he was a cantor in Johannesburg, and he wrote for the local Yiddish press there. In book form: Tefilot ḥagi (Chagy’s prayers), cantorial recitatives (New York, 1937), 44 pp. His final cantor’s post was at Temple Beth-El in Borough Park, Brooklyn. He died of a heart attack during Shemini Atseret in the Young Israel Synagogue in Newark, in the middle of prayer from the cantor’s podium.
Sources: Elyohu Zaludkovski, Kultur-treger fun der yidisher liturgye, historish-byografisher iberblik iber khazones, khazonim un dirizhorn (Culture bearer of Jewish liturgy, historical-biographical survey of the cantorial art, cantors, and conductors) (Detroit, Michigan, 1930), p. 299; Khazones, zamlbukh (Cantorial art, anthology) (New York: Jewish Ministers Cantors' Association of America, 1937), p. 176; Y. Rumshinski, Klangen fun mayn lebn (Sounds of my life) (New York, 1944), p. 722; M. Yardeni, in Tog (New York) (December 9, 1947); Yardeni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 26, 1950; July 18, 1950); Yardeni, in Der amerikaner (New York) (November 17, 1950); Yardeni, in Forverts (New York) (December 9, 1951); N. Stolnits, Negine in yidishn lebn (Music in Jewish life) (Toronto, 1957), pp. 50, 150; information from M. Yardeni in New York; Bibliography of Jewish Music (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951), p. 233; Who’s Who in World Jewry (1926).