The Cantor from Poughkeepsie

Thanks to my good friend (and clergy partner-in-crime) Cantor Howard Friedland for steering me toward this amazing piece of footage: cantor-comedian Shepsil Kanarek doing one of his routines.

This particular bit involves Shepsil’s outrage at being forced to audition for a High Holiday position at a synagogue (“Me?! Shepsil Kanarek from Poughkeepsie??!!”) I’m not quite sure how to describe his comedy – this man was simply a force of nature and really must be seen to be believed. If you understand Yiddish or know anything about old school cantorial styles, you will love this. Howard howls every time he watches it…

This clip is beginning to make the rounds on the Jewish blogosphere, so it seems that Shepsil is finding new life via the internet. I’ve searched in vain for more info on him – if any of you know anything more about the cantor from Poughkeepsie, please write in!

5 thoughts on “The Cantor from Poughkeepsie

  1. I do agree that Shepsil is great, but the real treasure is the footage of Menashe Skolnik at the end…he was one of the best known and most popular of the Jewish vaudevilles.

  2. You need to review the homecoming scene in the Moyshe Oysher film “Dem Chazzen’s Zun (The Cantor’s Son)” made in the 1930’s copies of which are available commercially from the Brandeis University Jewish Film Archives.

    This Yiddish comedian character, Shepsil Kanarek, appears in the movie as a supporting character, again with the business of a chazzan from Pouchkeepsie, but now on a search committee which finds its cantor in the voice of Moyshe Oysher, aka Saul Reichmann, a newcomer to America.
    Shepsil ends up being Oysher’s “agent”, but eventually they return to Moyshe’s European shtetl where he meets his childhood playmate now grown to a beautiful young woman. Oysher’s father has him daven for Shabbos and the Musaf Kedusha scene is the source of the march-like tune which Kanarek satirizes. The original scene is well worth seeing.

  3. The dancer at the end of the video is NOT Menashe Skulnik.
    He is terrific and I don’t know his name but he ain’t Menashe.

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