For much of his life, Moshe Taube has been a vehicle for offering songs as praise. Last week, the tables were turned, as Taube, 90, a world renowned cantor, was feted with music, pronouncements and congratulations at a special ceremony held at Young Peoples Synagogue (YPS) in Squirrel Hill. The gathering was called to mark Taube’s decade of service to the Forbes Avenue chavurah.
“We are just thrilled to celebrate Chazan Taube on his 10th anniversary of leading High Holiday services and being an active member of our congregation,” said Marshall Hershberg, an organizer of the Sept. 10 event.
“As president, it’s a pleasure to have him,” echoed Rebecca Spiegel, YPS president and fellow event organizer, to the more than 50 attendees.
In honoring Taube, several of his disciples shared memories and melodies.
“Whenever I am at an out-of-town convention and I mention that I’m from Pittsburgh, I am immediately asked about him. In the cantorial world, Cantor Taube has put Pittsburgh on the map,” said Cantor Henry Shapiro, spiritual leader of the Parkway Jewish Center.
Equally laudatory was Cantor Jack Mostow of the South Hills, who recalled Taube’s pedagogy. “When I would hit a high note, Cantor Taube would often have me repeat, after uttering this [admonition], ‘Let’s not leave it to chance.’”
Apart from anecdotal asides, several songs were shared. Although an unforeseen illness prevented Mostow from singing, Shapiro offered a few numbers, both in Hebrew and Yiddish, with Douglas Levine, noted pianist, composer, music director and owner of Levine Music in Pittsburgh, on the keyboard.
But in an evening dedicated to a man whose voice has served as a spiritual spotlight for generations, the highlight fittingly belonged to Taube. Following his students’ presentations, the cantor shared a simple message and musical tale.
“Forget chazanut, chazanut will be in 10 days,” said Taube as to the approaching days of awe. After his audience’s chuckling subsided, Taube launched into a stirring rendition of “The Impossible Dream,” a number popularized by the 1965 Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha.”
“It is something I like very much, and people appreciate the message of the song,” said the nonagenarian as to his choice of performance.
Apart from his distinguished 40-year career as chazzan at Congregation Beth Shalom and his past decade at YPS, “there is so much we know of Chazzan Taube,” said Hershberg. “We know of his family’s sufferings and loss in the abomination that was the Holocaust.”
Whether it is his own experiences as one of Oskar Schindler’s Jews or the emotional and spiritual gravitas of him being a survivor, there is a particular history captured by Taube’s voice, echoed Mostow. “When I hear Cantor Taube davening, I hear the history of our people.”
Those notes, which Taube so delicately carries, provide the backbone for the upcoming season, explained Spiegel. “In leading our services, what Cantor Taube conveys is the essence of the emotional journey of the High Holiday prayers.”
That Taube is still able to guide perhaps the most challenging devotions of the year is a blessing that he readily acknowledges. “Despite my age, my voice is fine. I have no trouble negotiating the liturgy for the High Holidays, thank God for that.” But also of importance, he explained, is that the members of YPS “love chazanut. They love liturgical music, and they love to sing. These are people of quality, people of a rich background of Jewish law and Jewish customs.”
For all parties, it appears to be a match of mutual appreciation.
“Cantor Taube brings faith to so many people,” said Councilman Corey O’Connor, who attended the Sunday evening ceremony.
“My blessing for you is to go from strength to strength and to be able to continue being our chazzan for many High Holidays,” said Spiegel, who also announced that several donations had been made by the congregation in Taube’s honor.
The congregation is extremely fortunate to have the cantor not only for the High Holidays, but as “an active member,” said Hershberg. “Every Friday night that he’s in town, Chazzan Taube attends our Kabbalat Shabbat services and is a frequent leader of our services. He’s just like any of the guys but better and an inspiration to us all.” pjc
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.