Abraham Wolf Binder

Cantor & teacher
1895-1966

Abraham Binder was born in New York to a family of cantors and into a world enriched by synagogue music and Jewish folklore. He was a member of his father’s synagogue choir from a young age, an experience which further developed his knowledge and love of nusach ha’tfillah (prayer melodies). He continued his involvement in Jewish choral music, forming the Hadassah Choral Union in 1916 and the music department at the 92nd Street YMCA in 1917. In 1921 he took a post as an instructor of Jewish music at the Jewish Institute of Religion and then a year later as the music director at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in NYC. As musical director, he introduced a number of important changes, including a return to traditional Biblical cantillation. Binder was also a serious composer of Synagogue music. Binder’s first complete service, Hibbat Shabbat, was published in 1928, followed by Rinnat Shabbat in 1935. The publication of Rinnat Shabbat crystallized Binder’s signature compositional style, using the cantillation of Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) as its musical base.  He continued composing services for use at the Stephen Wise Synagogue, eventually moving from a focus on Shabbat liturgy to that of the High Holidays and Shlosh Regalim. He wrote Evening Service for the New Year (1940), Morning Service for the New Year (1951), Arvit l’Rosh Hashanah v’Yom Kippur (1966) and Three Festival Music Liturgy (1962). Binder was appointed professor of Jewish liturgical music at the newly merged Jewish Institute of Religion and Hebrew Union College, and in 1948 helped to found its School of Sacred Music.

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