1913 - 1979
By Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler
Menachem Mendel Feldinger was born in Munkatch (Mukachevo), Hungary. Situated near three borders, Munkatch was a large market town, and the young Emanuel, who spoke several languages, made his pocket-money by standing in the market and translating for the merchants from the various countries.
Strikingly handsome, with a black pencil-line moustache, he was blessed with a beautiful baritone voice which came to the attention of the Munkatcher Rebbe (the Minchat Elazar) who agreed to his appointment as Chazan of the main shul in Munkatch at the age of 21!
The leaders of the community insisted that, since the previous Chazan had been a shochet, Menachem Mendel should also learn Shechita. On his arrival in the Shechita house, he promptly fainted and had to be carried outside! Declaring that he would never learn Shechita, he mastered the art so well that when Dayan Weiss, the Av Bet Din of Manchester needed to demonstrate Shechita to the local MPs, he sent for Rev. Feldinger to show how humane the procedure really is.
Feldinger's parents were asked for permission for him to study music and voice production, but his mother wept in front of whoever it was who had approached her and said that her son was a jewel in her eyes, and would he remove one of her eyes?
In 1939, with his wife Bertha (Bracha) and sister, he fled Hungary by train in an attempt to get first, to the South of France. Travelling illegally through Western Europe, the Nazis boarded the train and the three saved their lives by jumping through a window and rolling down an embankment. They eventually arrived in London, destitute and hungry, just in the clothes they stood in, and sat on the steps of the London Beth Din, and waited for someone to arrive.
Dayan Abramsky recommended Feldinger to the Notting Hill Synagogue, and soon after he accepted a call to the St. Annes-on-Sea Hebrew Congregation, which he served as Chazan, shochet and teacher for over forty years.
Although not formally trained, Chazan Feldinger had an incredibly "fast ear" and could pick up a piece of music virtually on first hearing.
Unfortunately childless, he taught many students in the Cheder, trained a boys' choir and was instrumental in sending at least three students to his friend Rev. Bryll at Jews' College.
Chazan Feldinger's davening was a unique blend of 'Munkatch meets the United Synagogue' and although it's believed he made a number of recordings, none were issued. After losing his wife, he retired to Bnai Brak in 1978. He married for a second time, but sadly succumbed to a heart attack, aged 66, on 25 Nisan 5739 (1979). His friends and students dedicated a room in his memory in the Ponevezh Yeshiva, and continue to cherish the memory of this kindly teacher and sweet singer of Israel.
(Material for this article was supplied by Rabbi Martin Wise and Chazan Steve Robins)
© Copyright Rabbi G. ShislerLast update: 30 April 2006
Keywords: Emanuel Feldinger, biography.