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October 20, 1995 - Image 69

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-10-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

PHOTO BY BILL HANSE

Show Stoppe

If he and his congregants
have their way, Louis Klein
will remain on center stage
during retirement.

Waal Mosher
rate llcli rcnnt Dinner
for ---

Cantor Louis Klein

22

ALAN HITSKY ASSOCIATE EDITOR

B'nai Moshe's
Cantor Louis Klein

he young man was aghast. "Now?" he
mouthed to the cantor across the bimah.
"Now," the cantor motioned.
So the 8-year-old, the youngest member of
B'nai Moshe's High Holiday children's choir,
dutifully went to get his stepstool at the rab-
bi's lectern.
As the 1,000 Rosh Hashanah congregants
laughed, the boy got his stool so that he could
stand a little taller at the Torah reader's table.
The rabbi interrupted his announcements to
glare down at the disruption, then glanced
back at the cantor, who smiled innocently
and shrugged his shoulders.
Cantor Louis Klein has been adding levi-
ty, solemnity and beautiful music — and
stealing the scene — at Congregation B'nai
Moshe for 37 years. On Oct. 22, hundreds
of synagogue members will honor him at a
dinner which, he now believes, will lead to
a very short retirement.
"I intend to stay here and be as busy as
possible, as busy as they allow me to be," the
cantor said.
Several months ago, it did not appear his
health would permit such an active role. But
the implantation of a heart pacemaker this
summer has made a dramatic change for the
baritone.
Since the operation, said B'nai Moshe Pres-
ident Steven Rabinovitz, the cantor's strength,
and voice, "are really back up there. He still
sings with the best of them. But he can't al-
ways come through like he would like to.

"He's going into an emeritus position. We
don't want him to feel pressured to be here
every week, but it's his pulpit whenever he
wants it. As far as I'm concerned, he's still
the cantor of B'nai Moshe and he always will
be."
Cantor Klein has spent more time at B'nai
Moshe than he has anywhere else in his 79
years. Born in Romania in 1916, he moved
to Belgium hi 1928 and studied at a yeshi-
va for 10 years. He married his beloved So-
nia in Poland in 1937, and the couple escaped
the Nazis by fleeing to England from Belgium
in 1940.
In 1956, he accepted the cantor's position
with an Orthodox congregation in Brooklyn,
N.Y. B'nai Moshe hired him in 1958.
"Once a rabbi asked me how I stayed so
long in one place. I told him, 'I mind my own
business, I please people, and like (movie
character) Forrest Gump, God looks after
me.' "
Lots of others look after him, too. For at
least 16 years, Bert Stein and B'nai Moshe
past president Robert Roth have been the
cantor's "lifters." On Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur, when clergy touch their fore-
heads to the floor, Mr. Stein and Mr. Roth
have had the honor of helping up the can-
tor.
"He's not supposed to move his feet," said
Mr. Roth, so it is hard to get up. "At B'nai
Moshe in Oak Park, the job was more diffi-
cult because we had to move the reader's table

to make room and contend with the micro-
phone. It became a tradition, a minhag, from
year to year."
Mr. Roth remembers during his presidency
trying to end one of the cantor's minhags. "He
would always go out to the foyer for coffee
and schnapps during the Sabbath service,
and he was joined by my father and (the late)
Bob Hirschbein. I made a foolish attempt to
stop that, but it didn't last."
Another minhag: When Cantor Klein re-
peats the Musaf Amidah on a particular Sat-
urday in November, Shabbat newcomers are
jarred from their lethargy by the familiar
strains of "Hail to the Victors" in honor of the
Michigan-Ohio State football game.
Before Chanukah, a few bars of "Rock of
Ages" in the Amidah gently remind the con-
gregation of the season.
Mr. Roth describes Cantor Klein as a de-
manding teacher. "He doesn't expect you to
have a perfect voice, but he wants things done
correctly."
Hundreds of B'nai Moshe children and
adults and Hillel students have learned that
lesson while preparing a Haftorah with the
cantor. Most have retained the cassettes he
recorded to help them prepare.
Cantor Klein is most proud of his choirs
over the years, and the lay cantors he has
trained. At one time, the sisterhood choral
group had 28 members and gave concerts
throughout Michigan. The men's choir, un-
SHOW STOPPER page 70

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