Morris (Moishe) Katanka
1926 - 1981
By Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler
Morris Katanka, was an English-born Chazan who graced the pulpits of
this country for many years.
He came from a musical family in Mile End, London, the youngest of
five children, and regularly attended the Mile End and Bow Synagogue,
Harley Grove, where he sang as a soloist in the choir of Chazan Yehudah
During the war, Morris Katanka served in the Royal Air Force in Europe
and the Middle East, and assisted in organising services for the Forces.
In 1947 he went to study in the Chazanut department at Jews' College,
first with the Rev Shlomo Pinkasovitch and then later with the Rev
Leo Bryll. These were the days when practically every Synagogue had
its own Chazan so, when the Chazan was on holiday Jews' College would
be called upon to supply a student to fill in. This meant that students
got lots of experience officiating at many different synagogues, so the
young Katanka's big, baritonal voice was frequently heard around London.
For a short while he served as a temporary Chazan at Dukes Place and
in 1950 he was appointed to the first of the only two positions that he
held throughout his career, at Shepherds Bush.
In 1955 Chazan Katanka received a call to be the First Reader of the
prestigious Princes Road Synagogue, Liverpool, where he remained for the
rest of his life. This was a community which was always well-known for
its fine Chazan and Choir, and Chazan Katanka enhanced the status that
it had gained, not only within the Synagogue, but also by the loving
pastoral care that he gave to his congregants.
Princes Road also has always had the reputation of being one of the most
beautiful Synagogue buildings in this country, so it was indeed a tragedy
when, just as the Chazan was about to celebrate 25 years of service to
the congregation, it was badly damaged by fire. One can only imagine
the difficulties, both physical and emotional, of having to officiate
for many months in the Shul while it was being rebuilt.
It was re-consecrated on the eighth night of Chanukah, December 1980,
and this was to be Chazan Katanka's final major service, for, after
having officiated at the Kabbalat Shabbat service of Parashat Yitro in
January of the following year, he passed away during the night, having
served the congregation with great devotion for 27 years.
During its long history, until Chazan Katanka's demise the Princes Road
Synagogue was served by five Chazanim; Jacob Prag, Harris Burman, Abraham
Coleman, Herman Bornstein and Morris Katanka. It's noteworthy that
four out of these five, including Morris Katanka, served the community
for exactly 27 years!
Unfortunately Chazan Katanka didn't make any professional recordings,
but there are, undoubtedly, many private ones in existence, as well as
"Uvenucho Yomar" and "Eli Eli" that the family have.
Thanks to Rabbi David Katanka for some of the information supplied in
© Copyright Rabbi G. Shisler
Keywords: Morris Katanka, Moishe Katanka, Moshe, biography.