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Cantor Weiss and wife Roz committed to chazzanut, one-on-one outreach

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Cantor Moshe and Roz WeissCantor Moshe and Roz Weiss are one of those couples who have been together so long and know each other so well that they finish each other’s sentences.

Roz knows as much about Moshe’s family history as he does — maybe even more.  And each one is prouder of the other’s professional accomplishments than they are of their own. They are each other’s biggest fans.

The walls of the Weisses’ spacious, tasteful Berkshires at Lowry apartment comprise a museum of the life they have built, individually and together.

Early days

First, there are photos of Cantor Weiss’ father and grandfather.

Moshe Weiss was born in Romania. He came to New York with his family in 1937 at age 8. His family consisted of his father, who was a shochet, his mother, a brother and a sister.

From the age of 13, Moshe was involved in the world of chazzanut (cantorial arts), singing and learning with many choirs with great cantors. He had his first High Holiday position at age 14, setting the stage for a career that has spanned 70 years.

He was a soloist with the famous Meir Machtenberg Choir and sang with such well known cantors as Pinchik, Waldman, Kwartin, Yoselle Rosenblatt and Moshe Oysher.   At 21, Weiss was the chazzan at the prestigious Bais Hamedrash Hagadol on Eldridge St., on New York’s East Side.

He sang at weddings and other events; this helped pay for school. He graduated from Yeshiva Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn.  Cantor Weiss is not only a trained chazzan, but he is an ordained rabbi. He received his smicha (rabbinic ordination) from Yeshiva Chasan Sofer of New York. On top of that he’s also a “doctor,” if you count the honorary doctorate he received from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2007.

While going to school, Cantor Weiss also worked at Temple Sinai in Philadelphia, followed by a tenure at Ahavas Israel of Oak Lane, also in Philadelphia.

One evening in 1951, Moshe Weiss, age 22, was hanging out on the Rockaway Boardwalk in Queens in what was unofficially the “religious section” with other young Jews. There he met 16-year-old Roslyn “Roz” Kaplan.

Roz, a Brooklyn native, was only three when she lost her mother. Consequently, she was raised by her maternal grandparents, and was an only child. At age 17, Roz found herself in the position of nursing her ailing grandmother until two days before her death.

Her grandmother’s death left Roz alone in the world with the exception of her beau Moshe Weiss.  Moshe’s father said to his son something to this effect: “Look, she’s an orphan now, and a nice girl. You know you want to marry her, so you might as well do it sooner than later.”

Moshe heeded his father’s advice and on Sept. 23, 1951, just after the first Selichos and days before Rosh Hashanah, Roz Kaplan and Moshe Weiss were wed, creating a marriage still going strong 62 years later.

When the Weisses married, Roz joined her husband in Philadelphia, where he continued to go to school and work at Ahavas Israel.

Roz went to Temple University for awhile, but she “was always more interested in the business world” — an aptitude that would serve her well many years later. She left Temple and went to work for a wholesale shoe company.

The fledgling young Weiss couple was taken in by the congregants of Ahavas Israel. “They all became my parents,” Roz recalls. “They looked after me. They taught me how to become a hostess, a cook, an auxiliary lady and a working gal. I’ve always been a multi-tasker.”

Family

Then, on the Weisses’ walls are photos of their daughters and granddaughters. In July, 1955, Moshe and Roz became the parents of Cheryl “Cher.”

Cher was multiply disabled from birth. She was blind, and sustained what Roz describes as “motor damage.”

“When Cher was born, the doctors told us to put her in an institution,” Roz recalls. “We looked at them like they were out of their minds.”

There was no way that Roz and Moshe Weiss would give up the care of their precious daughter to strangers.  In fact, they kept Cher at home and nurtured her into as independent a person as she could be, given the nature of her disabilities. Cher, now 58, lives with her parents to this day.

“She does whatever we do, and goes wherever we go. She goes on vacations with us, and that has included Israel and cruises.”

Daughter Karen came along in December, 1957, six months before Moshe and Roz made a move that would change and define the rest of their lives.

Cantor Weiss was asked to become the chazzan at Beth Joseph synagogue, a traditional shul at 8th Ave. and Holly St., on Denver’s East Side. Beth Joseph, led by Rabbi Daniel Goldberger, was burgeoning with post-war baby boomers and their parents, and this new, young cantor was the next step in the congregation’s growth.

For the Weisses, whose lives had been mostly restricted to the East Coast, the thought of moving out West to Denver was daunting.

“Ve iz Denver? — Where is Denver?” asked Cantor Weiss’ parents, in Yiddish.

“Before we got here, people would tell us [from back East] , ‘put on your long underwear!’” Roz recalls.

But once they got here  — in January, no less — they found they didn’t need their long underwear, but instead found warmth, both socially and meteorologically.

“Three people met me at the airport,” says Cantor Weiss, “Sam Pepper, William “Vilu” Hochstadt and Sam Shames.

“I was wearing a heavy coat and a scarf; they were wearing light jackets!”

“From the airport, I saw the mountains, and the gorgeous blue skies. We drove down Monaco; it was so gorgeous, and people were watering their lawns in January!”

From that point, the cantor was sold.

The Weisses drove cross country from Philadelphia to Denver, with their two young daughters in tow.

Roz had some difficulty adjusting to life in Denver; it was so different from what she was accustomed to in the East. She wanted to “go home” after Cantor Weiss’ initial two-year contract was up.

Well, within that two-year period, the Weisses began building relationships. People reached out to the young family, and the Weisses reached back. Roz put the hostess and cooking skills she learned from her mentors in Philadelphia to good use, as they opened their home to visitors nearly every Shabbos.

Their first home was at 6th Ave. and Monaco Pkwy.; then they moved to Cedar Ave. and Jersey St.

The cantor would find people who were alone and invited them, along with 12-15 other people to join his family. That set the stage for the next 55 years for the Weisses to develop their reputation for hospitality and informal outreach, and it continues to this day.

While Cantor Weiss built his career at Beth Joseph, Roz raised her daughters.

Cher became an avid skier, and was active in the Blind Ski Program. Her hobbies have included bowling and music.

Karen graduated from Hillel Academy and Colorado Academy. She received her undergraduate degree from Washington University, and her medical degree from CU

Karen became a gynecologist. She is married to Dr. Robert Weinberg, an anesthesiologist, and they live in Atlanta. They have two daughters Natalie, a vocalist who attends the University of Indiana, and Dayna, who is studying hotel management at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.



 

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