Carl Urstein; Cantor Wrote Liturgical Works


Carl Urstein, the Palestinian-born retired musical director of Temple Sinai in West Los Angeles and a cantor considered among the most original contemporary talents in liturgical music, is dead.

A spokesman for the temple on Wilshire Boulevard said Urstein died Monday at 86.

Urstein was a sixth-generation Palestinian whose singing voice was discovered by a surgeon in Vienna, where Urstein had gone as a boy for treatment of a severely broken arm. With the doctor’s encouragement, Urstein stayed in Vienna, where he studied and performed before moving to the United States, where he became a cantor in Chicago. He came to Sinai Temple in 1947 and retired in 1972.


In addition to winning many honors, Urstein trained several nationally known cantors and was an adviser to Danny Thomas for the 1953 remake of “The Jazz Singer.”

A requiem he wrote for Rabbi Jacob Kohn was performed at the temple by the late Metropolitan Opera tenor Jan Peerce, and three volumes of his liturgical compositions have been printed in Israel.

Urstein will be buried at noon today at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park after a 10 a.m. memorial service at the temple.

Survivors include his wife, Sophie, two sons, a daughter, one grandchild, two great-grandchildren and a sister.