Hazzan Nathan (Nechemiah) Mendelson, z”l, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1907. He obtained his early Hebrew education and learned the modes of prayer-chant (nusach) from his father, Rabbi Jacob Benzion Morein Mendelson, z”l, an eminent halachic publicist and Lubavitcher Hassid who occupied prominent pulpits in Glasgow and Newark, N. J. Hazzan Mendelson continued his religious education at Yeshiva Rabenu Isaac Elchanan, now part of Yeshiva University. He earned a B.Sc. at the College of the City of New York, where he took the premedical course, and completed New Jersey Law School where he received the degree of L.L.B. He studied voice with some of the outstanding teachers and cantors of the New York Metropolitan area. He was trained as a Mohel by his father-in-law, Rev. H. L. Chazin, z”l, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey and initiated thousands of children into the Covenant of Abraham from the time of his arrival in Montreal in 1938. He was married to the late Mae Mendelson, z”l, who was also active in the musical life of the Congregation and frequently provided piano accompaniment for concert performances. He was subsequently married to Rhoda Mendelson, z”l.
Cantor Mendelson served as Hazzan of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim from 1938 to 1973, when he was appointed Hazzan Emeritus and continued to serve until his untimely passing on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, 1977. As a lawyer, ordained Rabbi, Talmudic scholar, musician and Mohel, Hazzan Mendelson had a profound influence on all members of the Congregation and Montreal Jewish community whose lives he touched. He symbolized a synthesis of the best in Jewish religious and musical traditions, combined with openness to new thought and forms of articulation.
Hazzan Mendelson composed many liturgical and art compositions, a number of which have been published. A cantata, “Jerusalem: City of Vision and Prayer,” for which he composed the music, had its premiere performance in 1976 in New York. His Rabbi Chanania Ben Akashya has been recorded by world-renowned Cantors. He was a founding member and Past President of the Cantors Assembly of America and of the Council of Hazzanim of Greater Montreal. Throughout his life, he was deeply involved in work for Israel and Zionism, Torah and Jewish culture and the dissemination and interpretation of Jewish Music. May his memory live on for a blessing.
Music in this collection courtesy of Hazzan Nathan Mendelson.