Cantor Maurice (Moshe) Weiss loved that decorative cantor’s hat, somewhat square yet flaring slightly outward in rounded fashion. The Intermountain Jewish News of decades ago is filled with pictures of Cantor Weiss in that headgear. He loved the hat because he loved being a cantor. He was a person without airs, yet he wore that hat proudly and prominently because he deemed his profession critical to prayer — critical to connecting with the Alm-ghty — and this demanded attention and respect.
In his heyday at Beth Joseph Synagogue on 8th and Holly Street, Cantor Weiss, yes, led the prayers with flair, with undeviating attentiveness to the moods of prayer than can be induced by both the roar and the still small voice — o how Cantor Weiss made his voice so small, virtually still, yet still audible. He did this, yes, yet also trained Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and a High Holiday choir with rigor, for the responsibility of the cantor to enhance prayer became the responsibility of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah and of the choir. Nothing less than their best would do.
Moshe Weiss’ life trajectory was one that seemed so common at the time, but which, in retrospect, bore signs of the heroic. Born in Romania, immigrant to New York, emigre to faraway Denver (“where is Denver?” his parents asked), Moshe with his wife Roz made this city their home for the rest of their lives and the rest of their 62-year marriage.
The parents of a disabled child, the Weisses and the cantor’s musical pleas to the Alm-ghty touched the souls of the congregants around him, but more than anything they touched his own soul. This gave him a stamp of authenticity that carried across in all of his relationships, both in and beyond the synagogue. He wound himself into the lives of countless Denver families, training thousands of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and officiating at countless weddings and funerals. So many people associate Cantor Weiss with their most sensitive moments, remember him fondly and miss him deeply.
After Cantor Weiss retired from the cantorate at Beth Joseph and went into business, he did not retire from the cantorate, enjoying a 20-year High Holiday tenure at Congregation B’nai Jacob in Charleston, West Virginia. During that time and after, Cantor Weiss could still be heard in local synagogues leading the prayers periodically.
It is impossible to recall Cantor Weiss without invoking, to name but a few, his wife Roz first and foremost, and Rabbi Daniel Goldberger, Samuel Burger, Boutique Judaica, the Auerbach family. His passing is the end of a single life, but it is also the end of an era. May his multifaceted memory be a blessing.
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