My heart is truly broken that I have lost one of my dearest friends and that the Jewish world has lost a renowned and brilliant cantor, conductor, orchestrator and composer who spread the joy of cantorial and Jewish music across the world. My dear friend and esteemed colleague, Dr./Cantor Mordechai Sobol, suddenly passed away on September 15 of a massive brain aneurysm at the age of 67.
Mordechai had arrived in New York from Israel a few days before Rosh HaShanah. He had served as High Holy Day guest cantor in Great Neck for 27 years. We often would sit for hours talking about the compositions we were working on and our next collaboration together. He died on a visit to his family in Atlanta.
I met Mordechai Sobol approximately 30 years ago when he asked me to perform a concert in Palm Beach, and we became dear friends. at the Palm Beach Auditorium in Florida. We soon became dear friends. He was a man of tremendous character and passion, dedicating his life to the furtherance of cantorial music. He had a unique way of keeping the traditional sounds of chazzanut while adding a unique element of beauty with symphonic sounds. His mission was to keep cantorial music the “sacred art form” that it is meant to be.
Mordechai Sobol was the musical director and conductor of the Yuval Cantorial Concerts in Israel, conducting the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and featuring the top cantors of our time. He also conducted many other symphony orchestras throughout the world. He was the founder, conductor and musical director of the Yuval Ensemble, a male choir in Israel.
Mordechai brought me to Israel to do many concerts, and he and his son, Ofir, created a magnificent orchestration to my composition of “Avinu Shebashamayim,” which we eventually recorded it in Tel Aviv. Cantors throughout the world started singing it in their synagogues and at concerts, with Mordechai’s encouragement and support. The Israeli Army produced a beautiful video in which Shai Abramson, cantor of the IDF, performed it.
Ofir has followed in his father’s footsteps as musical director and conductor of the IDF rabbinate choir, and has become a brilliant orchestrator himself. In addition to Ofir, Mordechai leaves his devoted wife, Yona, and sons Eyal and Asaf and daughter Hila, and five grandchildren.
I will miss Mordechai very much, and when I shed a tear I will sing a Jewish tune and know that I am better for having shared such a special friendship with this magnificent musical human being.
May he rest in peace.
Sol Zim is cantor of the Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and known widely for his performances and compositions.