‘One of the world’s foremost ambassadors of Jewish music’

Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi honored for three decades as Anshe Emet’s cantor

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Cantor Alberto Mizrahi, known as one of the world’s greatest living cantors, will be honored this month for his achievements.

Where does Jewish cantorial music belong? If you are Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi, you perform it in a synagogue--but also in the world's concert halls, at festivals, churches, cruise ships, on TV--and even in the U.S. Capitol Dome. 

But most often, you can find Mizrahi at Chicago's Anshe Emet Synagogue, where he has led services for more than 32 years. In June, Mizrahi retired to become Hazzan Emeritus; he passed the baton to Cantor Rachel Brook.

Mizrahi's cantorial career has allowed him to fulfill an aspiration that began as a small child. "My 52 years as a Hazzan have afforded me the possibility to live out a dream that I had when I was 5 or 6 years old," he recalled. "I wanted to sing--as my mother would [sing] in the house while I was growing up."

Around the same time, his father took him to his first movie-- The Great Caruso­­-- where Mizrahi saw Mario Lanza portray Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso. From then on--his path was set. 

All these years and a dream realized later, Mizrahi will be honored this month by Anshe Emet, led by his longtime friend and colleague Rabbi Michael Siegel, with its Visionary Award. The event, "Mizrahi: The Man & His Music," will be held at Anshe Emet in Lakeview on Sunday, Nov. 14.

"During our more than 30 years together, I never lost sight of the fact that this man is one of the great hazzanim living today," said Siegel, Anshe Emet's Senior Rabbi. "He is one of the true visionaries of the cantorate. We are so proud to say our Hazzan has served as one of the world's foremost ambassadors of Jewish music."

Mizrahi is considered one of the world's leading interpreters of Jewish music, both in terms of virtuosity and versatility. He has sung with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and orchestras across the U.S., Europe, Israel, as well as Venezuela, and has performed for presidents. He has mastered both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic liturgies, and can sing in nine languages, including Yiddish and Ladino.

Over the course of 40 albums, he has recorded prayers, holiday standards, Israeli tunes, and a world of Jewish folksongs.

And he has duetted with folksinger Theodore Bikel, was accompanied by jazzman Dave Brubeck--and understudied opera's Pavarotti. "Luciano loves your voice," the opera's director divulged to him.

Mizrahi has served as president of the Cantor's Assembly. Additionally, he has served on the boards of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Zamir Choral Foundation.

His family immigrated from Greece to Cleveland, with the help of HIAS, when he eight. He grew up attending Jewish schools in both Cleveland and Chicago, later studying music at Roosevelt University. He graduated from the H.L. Miller Cantorial School at the Jewish Theological Seminary--where he would later return as a faculty and board member.

Mizrahi held a series of cantorial posts across the country before landing in Chicago. All the while, he assayed a career as an opera singer-- "I tried to be both at once," he admitted. "It wasn't the best idea." Then, while singing at a Chicago Field Museum event, Siegel heard him--and the rest is cantorial history.

Now that he has retired, he said he's enjoying his time spending time with his wife and grown daughter and her husband--loved ones he calls "everything good and real to me." He also has been spending his leisure time traveling, golfing--and, of course, singing. 

"I've had quite a career," he added. " Baruch Hashem ."

For tickets to "Mizrahi: The Man & His Music," visit ansheemet.org/visionaries .


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