Cantor Kalman Kalich (17 December 1903 in Poland – 25 February 1982 in New York City, NY, USA)

This post replaces an earlier article on Chazzen Kallich elsewere on this site (see: Kalman Kalich (17 December 1903 in Kalich, Poland – 25 February 1982 in New york City, NY, USA))

Chazzan Kalman on the cover of ‘The art of Cantor Kalmen Kallich’ released   by The Greater Recording Company in 1976 (GRC298)

According to the “Extract from the registry of engaged Jews 1885-1937” of Brzozów, Kalman (or Kelman) was born as the son of Mozes Yosef Kalech and Sara Stieber on 4 January 1903 in Brzozów (currently in Poland) as Kelman Stieber.

The date of birth which is mentioned in this Brzozów document differs slightly with the dates which we find in the the United States Social Security Death Index. In that index 18 December 1902 is mentioned as Chazzan Kalich’s birthdate (which is 17 days earlier than what we know from archives in Poland) and February 1982 as the date he passed away.

The book “First Hungarian Congregation Ohab Zedek” mentions 17 December 1903 as the date of birth for Kalman Kalich. According to the United States Census of 1910 and 1930 Kalman was born in about 1903-1904.

This all means that the last sources differs about a year respectively 3 years with the two other versions found in the Polish and the USA archives. It is therefore that I am inclined to believe that Kalman was born in the winter of 1902-1903.

Kalman Stieber in the “Extract from the registry of engaged Jews 1885-1937” of Brzozów

Chazan Kalich officiated in a few places, one of these synagogues was the Congregation Ohab Zedek where he officiated for over 40 years. We read the following about that congregation on their website (

Congregation Ohab Zedek, or OZ, as it is fondly known, is more than just a synagogue. Under the leadership of Rabbi Allen Schwartz, the Shul is known for its open doors and big heart.
OZ has a proud history. The Shul was founded in 1873 on Avenue B and Houston Street on the Lower East Side as the First Hungarian Congregation Ohab Zedek. After a sojourn on West 116th Street in Harlem, the Congregation moved to its present location at 118 West 95th Street in 1926. Today, as part of a revitalized Upper West Side that has drawn an ever-expanding population of families and young adults, OZ is a vibrant and dynamic Jewish center for prayer, learning and social activities.

I contacted the Congregation Ohab Zedek and got the following information about Chazen Kalech:

[…]This is the information that I wrote in the book on the History of the shul (Ohab Zedek), and that’s all the information I have:

“Cantor Kalich was born in Kalich, Poland on December 17, 1903. He previously served as Cantor of the Arena Synagogue, Budapest, Hungary, and sang in Yossele Rosenblatt’s choir in Pressburg, Hungary. He was honored for his many years of service at Ohab Zedek at a dinner held at the Hotel Olcott, New York City, given in his honor on Saturday evening, March 11, 1961, recognizing his 25 years of dedicated service to the congregation. He died in New York City on February 24, 1982.”

By the way, he was chazan at Ohab Zedek from 1935 to 1981. I believe his wife’s name was Rose.[…]

The book “First Hungarian Congregation Ohab Zedek” – written by Chaim Steinberger, January 2005 -published by First Hungarian Congregation Ohab Zedek, 118 West 95th Street, New York City – printed by Dash Printing, New York City.

The quoted paragraph, which was taken from the book “First Hungarian Congregation Ohab Zedek”, seems to have some mistakes, the date of birth we discussed already but also the fact that Chazzan Kallich sung in Pressburg with Chazzan Rosenblatt does not fit.

Let’s explain; we know about Chazzan Yossele Rosenblatt that he officiated in Pressburg between about 1901 and 1906. Then he officiated between 1906 and 1912 in Hamburg, Germany and in 1912 Chazzan Rosenblatt arrived in the States. This all means that Kalman must have been about 3 years old when Chazzan Rosenblatt left Pressburg. Therefore it therefore seems unlikely that Chazzan Kalich sung in Chazzan Rosenblatt’s choir while still in Pressburg.

Kalman did however, ‘armed with the blessing from the famous Kruckover Rebbe’, start on his journey at the age of six as a choir boy with Chazzan Rosenblatt, who was then the Cantor of the congregation Ohab Zedek on 116 Street in Harlem.

Kalman and his Chazzonus:
The famous conductor Shnipelinsky got him in contact with Chazzan Aryeh Leib Rutman. It was Chazzan Rutman who took him under his wings and taught him the art of Chazzonus, hence the comparison to the famous Rozumni.

At 11 years of age, Cantor Kallich became a child prodigy and gave concerts as far west as Chicago. Forced to stop singing as he matured, at 20 he became the cantor of the famous Clymer street synagogue in Williamsburg. Continuing his musical education with such voice teachers as Alfred Martina and Giuseppi De Luca, world famous singers of the Metropolitan Opera, and instructors of Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker, Cantor Kalich simultaneously advanced himself in chazanuth with the genius of nussach Samuel Weingarten possessed.

While chazzan Kalich occupied a position in Washington Heights, the late Rev. Maurice Taub of Ohab Zedek, summoned Cantor Kalich to occupy the position at Congregation Ohab Zedek where has officiated as Cantor for over 40 years.

When the late Leo Low heard him sing, he exclaimed “The sweetness of his voice his like the great Razumna of Odessa. Jan Peerce, the Metropolitan Opera Star said, “I love traditional Cantorial music, and my grates pleasure is to hear Kalmen Kalich sing” and “He was a hazzan; he knew his perush hamilos” (perush hamilos is Hebrew and can be translated as “the meaning of the words, understanding the words which are being said during the prayers”).

On another cover for a vinyl record with songs from Chazzan Kalich we can read that Kalmen Kalich was the original “Boy Wonder Cantor”. Under the tutelage of the renowned choir leader Eli Shipelinsky, he conducted Sabbath Services in many of the famous synagogues throughout the United States. Cantor Kalman Kalich won further acclaim as a great interpreter of Jewish Folk songs and Liturgical Music and for many years his voice was heard on radio, where many accolades and plaudits were given to him.

Jeffrey P. Lieuwen from The Netherlands sent me a copy of Kalman Kalich’s performance of B’rich Shmei. It is with his kind permission that I am redistributing the mp3 with a performance of the Cantor who ‘was a high baritone with a lovely, sweet zoger style. Definitely one of the greats of yesteryear’‘. Mr. Liewen extracted this from an the old Tikva record.

Tikva Records was founded in 1947 as an independent Jewish record label. For the next 30 years, it would record an eclectic range of Jewish-American songs, including klezmer pop, cantorial singing, Catskills medleys and Israeli folk tunes.

Tikva Records folded in the late 1970s, but a number of singles on the label have been re-released by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation (, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding and preserving Jewish music through museum exhibits, concert showcases and reissues of lost Jewish classics and compilations.
(Source:Reviving ‘Songs For The Jewish-American Jet Set’ at  NPR (, retrieved on 28 March 2012)

Press the playbutton to play the song B'rich Shmei
by Chazzan Kallich

Chazzen Kalman Kallich and my family:
There is a possible link between Kalman Kallich and my Kallech/Lehrer family. This is first of all based on the fact that in my branch too, there are and were many males with the name Kalman. Besides that Alan Miller also believes that he was related to us (Alan Miller is doing research on yet another Kalech branch which most likely is related to my branch). He sent the following information:

Yes, Kalmen Kalich is related but I’ve never been able to determine exactly how. My mother, who was born in 1906, recalled playing with him as a child and remembers that her mother referred to him as a “cousin” but the word “cousin” was used very loosely so I can’t be sure exactly what the relationship was. But here’s what else I know:

Kalmen was married to Beatrice Finkel who bore him twin sons: Robert and Richard. After Beatrice died, he married Rose Milstein but they had no offspring. Kalmen also had one brother, Theodore, who married Sylvia Schweller; They had two sons: Herbert Warren and Allan Scott.

Kalmen’s father was Moses Joseph Kalich who was born in 1880 and died in 1953. He was married to Sarah Stieber (Kalmen’s mother).

Moses Joseph Kalich’s father was Alexander Ziska Kalich who was married to Feiga ——. I believe that they had four other children in addition to Moses Joseph: they were Necha, Molly, Tillie and a son of unknown name.

I am guessing that Alexander Ziska was a son of Yishaia Shlomo Zalman Kalich, which would make him a brother to Gershon (my great grandfather), to Rebecca, and to Shmuel Zanvil. But this is just speculation on my part because I couldn’t figure out any other way to fit him in to the family tree.

I put together the following outline of Chazzan Kalman’s family tree:

Descendants of Alexander Ziska Kalich
1 Alexander Ziska Kalich b: in Austria
.. +Feiga NN b: in Austria
…….. 2 Necha NN
…….. 2 Molly NN
…….. 2 Tillie NN
…….. 2 NN NN
…….. 2 Mozes Josef Kalech b: Abt. 1882 in Austria d: 1953
………… +Sarah Stieber b: 17 okt 1878
………………. 3 Kalmen Kalich b: 04 jan 1903 d: 24 feb 1982 in New York City, NY, United States of America
………………….. +Beatrice Finkel
……………………….. 4 Robert Kalich
……………………….. 4 Richard Kalich
………………. *2nd Wife of Kalmen Kalich:
………………….. +Rose Milstein
………………. 3 Theodore Kalish b: Abt. 1908 in New York, USA
………………….. +Sylvia Schweller
……………………….. 4 Herbert Warren Kalich
……………………….. 4 Allan Scott Kalich

My thanks go out to everyone who helped me writing this article, especially to Jeffrey P. Lieuwen who is, as he wrote about himself, ‘a lover and collector of Chazzonus and besides the music I also collect pictures/biographical info etc. of Chazzonim.’ I would like to thank him for sending me valuable information and the mp3 file. Also many thanks to Allan Miller for the information about the family and also to Mr. Chaim Steinberger for information about Congregation Ohab Zedek and Chazzan Kalich during his time at “Ozny”.

Please contact me or comment on this post if you can give me more information on Cantor Kalman Kalich a”h.

Sources (besides sources mentioned in the main article):

This entry was posted in Genealogy. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *