Zawel Kwartin’s “My Life” (Mayn Lebn)



Painting by Asa Friedman, image shared by Robert Kwartin (grandson)

Zawel Kwartin painted by Asa Friedman


We are so pleased to share with you the memoir of a remarkable man.

As our Research Fellow, Jeremiah Lockwood, wrote in his article announcing the gift of this memoir to the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience, Mayn Lebn, (My Life), is an autobiography of a “revered cantor and early star of Jewish records, Zawel Kwartin (1874-1952). Mayn Lebn is a wonderful primary document of Jewish life in Europe and the United States in the early years of the twentieth century. The anecdotes Kwartin crafted offer a unique look into the development of a cantorial career, and the ascendancy of the gramophone era of “golden age” cantors. Kwartin’s eye for detail and his rich memory of the personalities that populated his world growing up in the Ukraine offer a fascinating cultural history of the lived experience of cantors and their audiences.”

We are immensely grateful to the Kwartin family for providing this translation of Mayn Lebn to share with scholars and the broader public alike. And we are confident that Kwartin’s story will educate, elucidate, and even entertain readers far and wide.

For those of you interested in the profiles of others who greatly influenced the development of music of the American Jewish experience, we encourage you to explore our Oral History Project of American Jewish Music.  Zawel Kwartin is mentioned in a number of these interviews, and many other fascinating people share the stories of their lives.

—Mark Kligman, Director of the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience