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Max Helfman (1901 - 1963)

Composer, choral conductor, and educator Max Helfman (1901–63) was born in Radzin (Radzyn), Poland, where his father was a local teacher and cantor in whose choir he sang as a child. He arrived in America at the age of eight and soon became a sought-after boy alto in New York orthodox synagogue choirs. At the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva school on New York's Lower East Side, he acquired a traditional religious education, but little else is known about his childhood or teen years other than that his musical gifts became ever more apparent. He began experimenting with choral conducting and even composition on his own, and eventually he studied at the Mannes College of Music. Although he never had a formal university education, Helfman became a self-taught intellectual, familiar with the canon of both secular Jewish and Western literature and philosophy.




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