Abraham Lopes Cardozo z"l (1914-2006)
Jewish Voice - March 3, 2006
Lopes Cardozo, Hazan Emeritus of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue
in the City of New York passed away Feb. 21, 2006 at the age of 92.
Reverend Cardozo was one of the spiritual leaders of Congregation Shearith
Israel for 60 years, he was a leading figure of Sephardic Jewry around
Born in Amsterdam,
Holland, Cardozo was the great-grandson of the Chief Rabbi of the Sephardic
Congregation and the son of Joseph Lopes Cardozo, musician, and leader
of the boy's choir of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. Reverend
Cardozo was a link in the chain of Sephardic Jewry that stretched back
to pre-Inquisition Iberia.
In the years after 1497, numerous Portuguese Jews converted, (many under
duress to save their lives). Over succeeding decades, many Jews made
every attempt to slip out of the country that had locked them in. Some
made it to France, others to Brazil (then a Portuguese colony) and yet
others to the Dutch Netherlands. It was in the Netherlands that the
Spanish and Portuguese Jews could openly return to Judaism without fear
of persecution. Because of their Iberian origins and Portuguese language,
the Jews of Amsterdam are known as Spanish-Portuguese Jews.
In September 1654,
shortly before the Jewish New Year, 23 Jews that were fleeing growing
anti-Jewish intolerance in Brazil, arrived in New York City. At the
time, the Dutch colony known as New Amsterdam was nothing more than
a small port for ships with a few storehouses surrounded by the forest.
This was the beginning of the history of Sephardic Jews in North America.
These 23 refugees founded a congregation known as Shearith Israel, the
Remnant of Israel. This was the congregation that Reverend Abraham Lopes
Cardozo served prominently from 1946-2006.
The members of
Shearith Israel, friends, family, and members of the public all came
together to pay their last respects and to express their love and gratitude
to a man that was revered on the highest level. The funeral was held
inside the magnificent synagogue of Congregation Shearith Israel in
New York, surely the grandest of all synagogues outside of Europe. Inside
the stately sanctuary, Reverend Cardozo's casket was draped with his
Tallit (prayer shawl) as a single candle solemnly burned at the head
end which is Jewish tradition.
Facing the teva
(readers desk), eulogies were given by several rabbis as well as family
members. Most notably, how in 1939, Reverend Cardozo was appointed by
Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands to be the Rabbi of the Sephardic
Congregation in Paramaribo, capital of the country of Suriname in northern
became a faculty member of the Yeshiva University Sephardic Studies
Program, where he taught as a Sephardic hazzan. Thirteen years after
coming to the United States, Reverend Cardozo published, Music of the
Sephardim. In the early 1960's he participated in recording the melodies
of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. In 1987 his major work, Sephardic
Songs of Praise, was published, as well as Selected Sephardic Chants
Rabbi Albert Gabbai,
the rabbi of Congregation Mikveh Israel of Philadelphia gave a touching
tribute to Reverend Cardozo, speaking about him with the reverence of
a son. He endeared the late Hazan as one of his teachers, someone who
helped teach him learn the Spanish and Portuguese tradition. Someone
who was an influence in his life.
Rabbi Marc Angel,
long time leader of Congregation Shearith Israel spoke eloquently and
from his heart, of the man who he said was influential on him becoming
rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. Rabbi Angel used the
Hebrew term shaliah sibur to describe Reverend Cardozo. He said the
rabbinical sages of the past dictated that the man chosen as the shaliah
sibur, the emissary of the congregation, had to be of upstanding character
with a high reverence to his community and his faith, this describes
was a remnant of a community in the Netherlands that was devastated
by the Nazis. In 1939 there were some 140,000 Dutch Jews living in the
Netherlands. In 1941, the majority of them were living in Amsterdam.
By 1945 only about 35,000 of them were still alive. Reverend Cardozo
proudly represented, taught and kept alive a culture and musical tradition
that had come with the refugees of the Iberian Peninsula and had once
again been taken with Jewish refugees, this time from those fleeing
Rabbi Angel's touching
words still resonate as he called Reverend Cardozo, an ember. He said
Reverend Cardozo was an ember that survived the ashes of the Holocaust.
Making his way to New York, Reverend Cardozo rebuilt his life after
losing his entire family in Europe. He then reinstituted his traditions,
subsequently passing them along to countless others.
Toward the end
of the funeral, the crowded synagogue rose in honor of Reverend Cardozo
as the congregation leaders, in their stately black bowler hats, circled
the bier several times, as is their tradition. Jews of every stream
and philosophy, including leaders of Jewish organization, professors,
and colleagues of the late Hazan, together, mourned over the loss of
this statesman and elder of the community.
is survived by his wife, the former Irma Miriam Robles of Suriname (former
president of the Central Sephardi Jewish Community of America), two
daughters, Deborah and Judith, and many grandchildren.