Joshua (Osias) Abrass

Eastern European Cantor-Composer


Joshua Abrass was Born in Berdichev in 1820. He was also known as "Pitshe."

He was considered a child prodigy, and studied with Bezalel Schulsinger in Odessa. Joshua officiated as a cantor in Tarnopol (1840-1842) and in Lvov (1842-1858), and as chief cantor in Odessa (1858-1884). He published one work, Simrat Joh (ca. 1884). 

In his memoirs, Cantor Pinchas Minkowski relates the story of the “cantors’ battle” in Odessa between Joshua Abrass and Jacob Bachman, during which the Jewish community in Odessa was divided into two camps: the Pitsists (plural of Abrass’ nickname) and the Bachmanists. For further reading (Hebrew), see: Minkowski, Pinchas. “Misefer Hayyai.” Reshumot 5 (1927): 145-160.

Sources: Encyclopedia Judaica; Concise Encyclopedia of Jewish Music (Macy Nulman); Jewish Encyclopedia.

A biography of Joshua Abrass exists in Yiddish in Elias Zaludowski's Ḳulṭur-ṭreger fun der Idisher liṭurgye: hisṭorish-biografisher iberbliḳ iber ḥazones̀, ḥazonim un dirizsharn. For an online version, click here.