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Max Helfman

Max HelfmanMAX HELFMAN (1901 – 1963) was born in Radzyn, Poland. After immigrating with his family to New York in 1909, he attended various music schools and ultimately received a three-year fellowship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

After relocating to California, Helfman served as music director at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and Temple Israel of Hollywood, among others. From 1944 to 1961, he served as head of the music department at the Brandeis Arts Institute in Santa Susana. At Brandeis, Mr. Helfman influenced such younger composers as Jack Gottlieb, Charles Feldman and Yehudi Wyner. In 1961, he founded the School of Fine Arts at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and later became the founding dean of the School of Fine Arts at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City.

Mr. Helfman’s compositions show an array of musical styles featuring Jewish themes. His works include Israeli folk melodies, sacred choral compositions, secular vocal music for solo and chorus, preludes for organ, a violin sonata, chamber music, ballet music and song arrangements. Mr. Helfman’s Friday evening service, Shabbat Kodesh (1942), is considered his most successful and enduring liturgical work.

He led the Philharmonic Choral Society, the Bach-Handel Society, the Jewish Music Alliance Chorus (New York) and the Paterson Singing Society. Mr. Helfman was known as a charismatic conductor, composer, teacher and lecturer.

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