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Abraham Wolkin, reverend cantor who gave performances at MSG, worldwide, dies at 96

Reverend Cantor Abraham H. Wolkin, a Jericho resident

Reverend Cantor Abraham H. Wolkin, a Jericho resident for many years who performed worldwide and at Madison Square Garden, died Dec. 26, 2014 at 96.

Reverend Cantor Abraham H. Wolkin, a longtime Jericho resident who performed worldwide and at Madison Square Garden, died Dec. 26 in his sleep at home. He was 96.

Born in Brooklyn, he trained with legendary Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt and was considered a wonder for his voice by age 13, said his son-in-law Marc Rovner of East Rockaway. He became a member of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus in 1939.

"In my mind and my heart, I always thought of my father as the great cantor Wolkin," said his daughter, Deborah Rovner of East Rockaway. "He was a larger than life personality, and I was proud to be his daughter."

Wolkin performed solo and with the chorus throughout the world -- in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Israel. In the United States, he sang at Madison Square Garden, Times Square and Brooklyn College. He was licensed by New York State as a Mesada Kedushin, which permitted him to perform wedding and bar mitzvah ceremonies and acquire the title of reverend cantor.

He officiated at more than 2,500 marriages. In the 1980s he was featured on TV's "Joe Franklin Show"as well as Ruth Jacobs' "Jewish Home Hour" on WEVD radio.

Cantor Barry Black of the Jericho Jewish Center, where Wolkin was a member, said Wolkin had a very natural, almost simplistic, approach to singing that was able to convey the profound meaning of the prayers.

"He was also at the same time an exceptionally warm, friendly, jovial human being. He was a great man, the kind you wanted to sit around with and chat," Black said.

In his autobiography, "My Life as Cantor," Wolkin wrote: "When we have each other, our children and our grandchildren -- What else could we ever need?"

From 1952 to 1988, Wolkin officiated as cantor during Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot at Charles and Lillian Brown's hotel, Loch Sheldrake in the Catskills. He also was the official cantor at Chateau d'Or, a catering facility in Brooklyn.

He studied music and chemistry at Brooklyn College, Marc Rovner said. Wolkin lived in Jericho for the past 27 years.

His wife of more than 66 years, Lily, died in 2007. Daughter Temma Wolkin predeceased him in 2007.

In addition to Deborah Rovner, survivors include daughters Eunice Pivovitsch of Forest Hills and Barbara Smiler of Jericho; sons Mark Wolkin of Woodmere and David Wolkin-Grudin of Tamarac, Florida; 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

A standing-room-only crowd attended services Sunday at Boulevard-Riverside Chapels in Hewlett. Burial was at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Jericho Jewish Center, 430 North Broadway, Jericho, NY 11753.

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