Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Samarkand Serenade

Refoel Pride

Opera singer isn’t a common job description in Uzbekistan, where Avraham Israel was born. But his passion for music and his natural talent led Avraham on a path far from home, where he thought he was following his heart. And then he took a job singing in a church. On a Saturday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When Avraham Israel opens his mouth to sing, the effect is electric. His tenor fills the room at once, flowing in a continuous, unabating swell. Each consonant is vocalized as audibly as the sonorous vowels: humming Ms, bursting Bs, Ts attacked like thwacks on a snare drum. And even if Italian is not your forte, his agile voice unmistakably traces the contours of each phrase, emotion rising along the scale. This is bel canto — “beautiful singing” — the operatic style popularized in Italy during the 18th century. And although Avraham no longer plies his trade before adoring crowds in opulent music houses, his talent has nevertheless carried him over vast distances — geographical and spiritual — and through some unexpected twists and turns. Avraham narrates the story of his life over a table in theMenachemTzion shul in Boro Park. His speaking voice is calm, evenly modulated — some might even say soft-spoken. These days he and his wife Mastura make their home in Brooklyn, and he teaches vocal technique to students of all ages, from the local neighborhood and around the world. It’s a far cry from the land of his birth and upbringing. Avraham was born Albert Israelov in Samarkand, formerly a prime station along the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia, but in 1962 the second-largest city in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. His father,MenachemIsraelov, was a manager in a busy hair salon, and his mother, Frecha, was a high school math and physics teacher. They preserved what Jewish tradition they could, Avraham recalls. He credits his parents with inculcating a strong sense of Jewish ethnic identity, which he maintained even as the atheistic educational system and larger Communist society worked against the development of a religious identity. And although official Marxist-Leninist doctrine decreed fraternity and equality to be watchwords of the day, youngAlbert nevertheless learned quickly that he was different from the other kids in school. “Our last name was a trigger,” he says. “They would say, ‘Dirty Jew, why don’t you go to Israel?’ I was beaten up many times. Once I went to my father and said, ‘Maybe if we change our last name they won’t see that I’m a Jew.’ “He told me, ‘You can change your last name, you can change your look, you can change anything you want — but you will always be a Jew. I’m proud to be one, and you should be too. It takes a lot to become a Jew — but see, you were lucky enough to have been born one.’ ”

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"