THE JACOB BEIMEL COLLECTION

AT THE LIBRARY OF THE JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
arranged and described by ELIOTT KAHN, D.M.A.,
March 2003

Table of Contents

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
PROVENANCE
SERIES LIST (Search JTS Library catalog for bibliographic records: catalog.jtsa.edu)
SERIES DESCRIPTION
BOX LIST


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Recording. Die Gildene Pawe / sung and arranged by Jacob Beimel. New York City, ca. 1919

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The Jacob Beimel Collection consists of correspondence, 1935-1952; published articles, 1907-1941; unpublished research and writings on Jewish music, n.d; and scores and essays submitted for publication in Beimel's Jewish Music Journal, 1934-1936. In addition, there are seven large photographs, ca. 1912-1930; lead printing plates of music published in Jewish Music Journal (2.5 in. deep); and other personal effects, n.d.; 1910; 1915.

Along with the above archival material, the collection contains Jacob Beimel's manuscript and published music scores, ca. 1903-ca. 1944, and one 78 RPM recording, ca. 1919. Among the manuscript scores are Beimel's synagogue compositions and cantorial repertoire (recitatives) from Berlin, ca. 1903-1911, Copenhagen, 1911-1915, Philadelphia's Congregation Adath Jeshurun, 1920-1929, New York's YMHA, n.d., and Congregation Anshe Chesed, 1938-1941. There are also manuscript recitatives Beimel used for private teaching, ca. 1929-1944; secular compositions (chamber music and art songs) from his student years in Berlin, 1904-1910; and Yiddish folk song arrangements for either chorus or solo voice with piano, ca. 1907-1944. Finally, there is a large orchestral work with parts, Oriental Suite, ca. 1910-1942.

Note: All the musical scores and published books may be accessed through the JTS Library Catalog (Search under "Beimel, Jacob" or title)


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Baton from Mendelssohn Chor. Berlin, 1910.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Jacob Beimel (1875-1944) was an American cantor, composer and musicologist. A friend and colleague of A.W. Binder (1895-1966), Beimel was an early, influential figure who helped return America's twentieth-century synagogue music to its traditional roots. His background was unique in that he possessed an extensive knowledge of both Jewish liturgical and European classical music.

Jacob Beimel was born October 11, 1875 in Parichi, a village in Minsk province, where his father was a hazzan and sofer. (Beimel always gave his birth year as 1880, however, his petition for U.S. naturalization provides the above date.) He received a thorough Jewish education in various yeshivot and, because of his clear alto voice, at the age of twelve became a meshorer (choir singer) in the choir of famed cantor Nissi Belzer (Nissan Spivak, 1824-1906) of Berditchev. Beimel continued his professional vocal studies in Odessa with M.L. Vasilenko, then relocated to Berlin in 1903 for further vocal training with Franz Emerich. A year later he began studies at the Meisterschüle für Musicalische Komposition at the Royal Academy of the Arts. Here, he studied musical composition with Professor Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916), and graduated in 1910. While in Berlin, Beimel served as music director at the synagogue "An der Potsdamer Bruecke"; conducted the Mendelssohn Chor; and had some of his compositions, folk song arrangements, and articles published in the Jewish cultural journals Die Welt and Ost und West, 1907-1912. He relocated to Copenhagen in 1911, serving as cantor and choir conductor at the Orthodox Synagogue there, as well as conductor of Hasomir, a secular Jewish singing society that he founded.

Beimel emigrated to the United States in 1915. In the U. S. he was conductor of the Paterson Singing Society, 1915-1921, one of the oldest Jewish volunteer choirs in the country. He became cantor at Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan's (1881-1983) new Jewish Center, from 1918-ca. 1920. Here, with A.W. Binder, he created the style of congregational melodies and singing that would become popular in American Conservative and Orthodox synagogues during the nineteen-twenties and thirties. Also during the twenties and thirties, Beimel published songs in Yiddish and Ukrainian as well as synagogue music. He made one recording for Columbia Gramophone Co., ca. 1919.

From 1920-1929 Jacob Beimel was both cantor and choir conductor under Rabbi Max D. Klein (1885-1973) at Philadelphia's Temple Adath Jeshurun. After leaving Adath Jeshurun in 1929, Beimel became seriously impacted by the U.S. economic depression and would never again find a full-time cantorial position. He returned to New York City and during the nineteen-thirties and forties served as a freelance cantor in the metropolitan area as well as in Atlantic City, N.J. He also taught music privately. In 1932 he published fifteen hymns — most in English — in the third edition of the Reform movement's Union Hymnal, edited by A.W. Binder. He was a gifted musicologist and published his own journal, Jewish Music, from 1934-1935. The publication was an artistic success, though a financial failure. Beimel was an authority on and instructor of nusachot (traditional Jewish prayer chanting) and several private students studied with him to serve in the American cantorate. One of them was Samuel Rosenbaum, the late Executive Director of the Cantors Assembly, who studied with him between 1938 and 1942. Jacob Beimel died in New York City on November 17, 1944, leaving behind his widow, the former Mary Ratner, and son, Saul Beimel.

Note: biographical information comes from The Jacob Beimel Collection, and from the following published sources:

Binder, A.W. "Our Non-Jewish Levites," Atlantic City Jewish Ledger, Atlantic City, N.J. (December 24, 1937).

Binder, A.W. "A Tribute to the Late Cantor Jacob Beimel," The Jewish Music Forum Bulletin 6-1, New York (December 1945).

Chazanuth: 40th Anniversary Journal, New York: Jewish Ministers Cantors Association of America, 1937.

Related Collections:
The Samuel Rosenbaum Collection
The Max D. Klein Music Collection

 

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Sheet music. Chesbon Tsedek / music by Yakov Baymel. New York City, 1924.

PROVENANCE

On December 20, 2000, the Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary received approximately five cartons of material from the apartment of the recently deceased Eugene (Saul) Beimel of Riverdale, N.Y. These cartons were filled with the books, scores, papers and personal effects of Eugene's father, cantor/composer Jacob Beimel. The boxes were in a closet and appeared to have been stored intact since the death of Jacob Beimel in 1944. The collection was made known to the library by Cantor Robert Kieval, who also helped evaluate and retrieve the collection. Cantor Kieval had been notified of the collection by Eugene Beimel's niece by marriage, Constance Lewis of Melrose, Mass. Mrs. Lewis and two of Jacob Beimel's nieces from New York were met at the apartment and were most helpful with some background family information. (The family's name is pronounced By-MELL.) They all wanted to donate the collection to the J.T.S. Library.

Some months later, the published books collected by Jacob Beimel were given bookplates and processed as part of the library's circulating collection. The other materials — very dusty and containing some mold — were demolded and subsequently cataloged or arranged and described for this inventory. This work took place during 2004. The Seminary Library's holdings with Jacob Beimel's authorship initially consisted of ten published music items. This increased to the current seventy separately cataloged manuscript and published items (See JTS Library Catalog), as well as four Hollinger boxes and two flat 18 x 12" boxes of archival material. (See Box List below.) Together, these make up The Jacob Beimel Collection at the Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary.

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SERIES LIST

I. Archival Material, ca. 1907-1944

  1. Correspondence, 1935-1952

  2. Subject Files, ca. 1907-1944

  3. Photos, plates, personal effects, choral parts, 1910-1935

II. Music, recordings and books composed, arranged, edited or associated with Jacob Beimel, ca. 1903-1944

 

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Photograph. Hasomir Choir. Denmark, ca. 1911-1915. (Beimel 2nd row from top, with goatee and arms crossed)

SERIES DESCRIPTION

I. Archival Material, ca. 1907-1944

Boxes 1-6

Most of the correspondence was arranged into alphabetical folders by Beimel. Some highlights include letters exchanged between him and Irma Cohon — wife of Professor Samuel S. Cohon and the mother of Baruch Cohon — regarding the possibility of Beimel succeeding the late A.Z. Idelsohn (1882-1938) as musicology professor at Hebrew Union College, 1938 (Box 1, folder 6). Though the H.U.C. job would go to musicologist Eric Werner (1901-1988), several photos indicate a warm friendship developed between Beimel and the Cohons. The harsh effects of the U.S. economic depression show in an August 19, 1938 letter to the Federal Music Project (1/11), when Beimel desperately asks, "Please give me the opportunity to work." There are also the minutes from two conferences held on congregational singing by The United Synagogue of America, 1940-1941 (1/26).

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Holograph. Kinnereth / music by S. Alman. London, 1935. (from Miscellaneous Music Collection, "Jewish Music Journal)

Highlights from the subject files include several typewritten essays on Jewish music (2/3), as well as much material related to the publication of Beimel's Jewish Music Journal (Box 2, folders 6-15). These folders contain clippings and copy that Beimel collected, as well as several manuscript music scores submitted by other composers — all considered for publication in the journal, 1934-1936. The manuscript scores have been separated and cataloged in "Miscellaneous music collection, 'Jewish music journal;'" only photocopies of scores remain within the folders. One of these scores, "Kinnereth," is in the hand of London Jewish composer Samuel Alman (1878-1947). In the Box List below, all the folder titles in quotation marks were created and labeled by Beimel.

Box Four contains Beimel's collection of photos (approximately 11 x 14 in.). Three are of Russian opera singer Anna Maichik; two of cantorial gatherings, ca. 1929, 1935; and there is a group shot of Copenhagen's Hasomir Choir, ca. 1911-1915. A large, framed, 22 x 17 in. photo portrait of Beimel lies nearby in the library's Rare Book Room. Boxes Five and Six contain lead printing plates as well as some of Beimel's personal effects: inscribed silver goblets presented by various choirs, ca. 1915-1920; his eyeglasses, prayer shawl, cantor's hat and neckpiece, n.d.; and his baton with ivory tip and handle, which was a gift from the Mendelssohn Chor, 1910.

II. Music, recordings and books composed, arranged, edited or associated with Jacob Beimel, ca. 1903-1944.

 Note: All the musical scores and published books may be accessed through the JTS Library Catalog (Search under "Beimel, Jacob" or title)

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BOX LIST
    A. Correspondence, 1935-1952
BOX FOLDER(S) DESCRIPTION
1 1 A, 1939-1940
  2 Adler, Cyrus, 1935-1939
  3 B, 1939-1940
  4 Bloch Publishing Co., 1937-1942
  5 C, 1941-1943
  6 Cohon, A. Irma, Samuel and Boruch, 1937-1944
  7 Coopersmith, Harry/ Jewish Education Committee, 1943
  8 D, 1940-1941
  9 E, 1940
  10 F, 1940
  11 Federal Music Project, 1938
  12 Finkelstein, Louis, 1940
  13 G, 1940-1941
  14 H, 1938-1943
  15 Heller, James, 1941-1942
  16 I-J, 1939-1942
  17 K-L, 1941-1942
  18 Mailamm, 1939-1940
  19 Music publishers, 1941
  20 "Musical sources of congregational singing," article and corresp., 1944
  21 N-P, 1937-1941
  22 R, 1940-1942
  23 Reference letters, 1936, n.d.
  24 Reference letters, 1936, n.d.
  25 Transcontinental Music Publ./ Joseph Freudenthal, 1951-1952
  26 United Synagogue of America, 1940-1941
  27 Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, 1940-1941
  28 W, 1938
  29 Welfare Island Synagogue, 1941-1942
  30 Y, n.d.
    B. Subject Files, ca. 1907-1944
BOX FOLDER(S) DESCRIPTION
2 1 Clippings, miscellaneous, 1924-1941
  2 Contracts, legal, n.d.
  3 Essays, typewritten, n.d.
  4 Fragments from water-damaged scores, n.d.
  5 Jewish Music Forum bulletins, 1941-1944
  6 Jewish Music Journal, brochures, ca. 1935
  7 Jewish Music Journal, "Choruses, solos, synagogal," 1935-1936
  8 Jewish Music Journal, clippings, miscellaneous, 1934-1935
  9 Jewish Music Journal, copy submitted for publ., English, 1935-1936
  10 Jewish Music Journal, copy submitted for publ., German and Russian, 1935-1936
  11 Jewish Music Journal, "Copyrights and permissions," 1934-1936
  12 Jewish Music Journal, "Literary in preparation," 1935-1936
  13 Jewish Music Journal, "Literary, Yiddish/ Hebrew," 1935-1936
  14 Jewish Music Journal, "Manuscripts of instrumental music," 1934-1936
  15 Jewish Music Journal, "Secular songs," 1934-1936
  16 Musical sketchbooks, ca. 1920; 1930
3 1 Musical sketches, miscellaneous, n.d.
  2 Musical sketches, miscellaneous, n.d.
  3 Notebook, Musical instruments in the Bible, ca. 1927
  4 Notebook, "Torniamo all' antico," translation, ca. 1935
  5 Published articles, German, 1907; 1912
  6 Published articles, Hebrew, Yiddish, English, 1911; 1920; 1941
  7 Research, notes, assorted, ca. 1935
  8 Research notes, from loose leaf, ca. 1910; 1935
  9 Speech, Beth Israel, Philadelphia, ca. 1930
  10 Ta'amim, chart, ca. 1935
  11 Yiddish poetry/ lyrics, n.d.; ca. 1920
    C. Photos, plates, personal effects, choral parts, 1910-1935
BOX FOLDER(S) DESCRIPTION
4 1 Photo, Hasomir, ca. 1911-1915
  2 Photo, Jewish Ministers Cantors Association, NBC, 1935
  3 Photos, Maichik, Anna, ca. 1920
  4 Photo, Philadelphia gathering [of cantors?], ca. 1929;
miscellaneous choral parts, n.d.
5   Personal effects, n.d.; ca. 1915-1920
6   Printing plates, baton, ca. 1935; 1910

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