Cantor Maurice “Moshe” Weiss, whose extraordinary voice and tutelage of thousands of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs endeared him to generations of Denver Jews, passed away Oct. 2, 2020, in Denver. Rabbi Benjy Last officiated at the Oct. 5 graveside service at Rose Hill Cemetery. Feldman Mortuary made the arrangements.
“I keep hearing from people that my father was a tough taskmaster, but that he taught them things they will always remember,” his daughter Karen Weinberg told the IJN.
“He was a tough teacher, but he demanded what he gave, which was always 100%.
“He also had a heart of gold, championed the underdog and would truly do anything for anybody.
“My father cried when he saw the birds returning and the flowers blooming every spring because he was so amazed by G-d’s creation.”
Moshe Weiss was born in Romania and came to the US with his family in 1937, when he was eight, and grew up in Brooklyn.
“He sang his first High Holiday service at age 14,” Karen said. “He told them he was 18 and drew a thin mustache with an eyebrow pencil to look older.
“Even after growing that thin mustache of his, he’d carry around an eyebrow pencil to fill it in.”
Weiss graduated Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and earned a rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva Chasan Sofer in New York.
He sang at weddings and other events to put himself through school.
Weiss worked at Temple Sinai and then in a tenured position at Ahavas Yisroel of Oak Park, both in Philadelphia.
“My father got his cantorial degree almost after the fact, by singing with choirs,” Karen said.
A soloist with the Meir Mackenberg Choir, he also appeared with legendary cantors Pinchik, Waldman, Kwarten, Rosenblatt and Oyser during his 70-year career.
Weiss met Rosalyn “Roz” Kaplan on the Rockaway Boardwalk in Queens. They were married on Sept. 23, 1951 and returned to Philadelphia.
In 1958, Weiss was asked to become the cantor at Denver’s Beth Joseph shul, the first Denver congregation east of Colorado Blvd., transplanted from 24th and Curtis St.
Beth Joseph was formed by post-war parents of baby boomers and headed by Rabbi Daniel Goldberger.
“Three people met me at the airport,” Weiss told the IJN in an Oct. 11, 2013 profile. “Sam Pepper, ‘Vilu’ Hochstadt and Sam Shames. I was wearing a heavy coat and scarf and they were wearing light jackets!
“From the airport, I saw the mountains and the gorgeous blue skies. We drove down Monaco; it was so beautiful, and people were watering their lawns in January!”
Weiss, who served as the cantor at Beth Joseph until 1980, developed a close working and personal relationship with Goldberger.
He and Roz and Goldberger and his wife Ida regularly shared Shabbos meals and took vacations together.
When Goldberger died in 2007, “we were heartbroken,” Weiss told the IJN. “We were the best of friends . . . He was like my brother.”
Mourners at the funeral service vividly remember the cantor’s impassioned E-l Male Rachamim for his dear friend.
The couple looked after his widow and invited her to Shabbos dinner. The tradition, which resumed its reciprocity, lasted until Ida Goldberger moved to Baltimore in 2015.
Weiss, who went into business after departing Beth Joseph, continued tutoring Bar and Bat Mitzvah students and singing at weddings, funerals and other occasions.
He also sang at High Holiday services at Congregation B’nai Jacob in West Virginia for 20 years.
Weiss received an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theology Seminary in 2007.
Roz Weiss passed away six years ago.
“Losing her was very hard on my father,” Karen said. “I don’t think he ever really got over it.”
Cantor Moshe Weiss is survived by his daughters Cheryl Weiss and Karen (Robert) Weinberg; and grandchildren Natalie Weinberg and Dayna (Jonathan) Eisen.
Contributions may be made to Shalom Park.
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