Morton Shanok Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Morton Shanok Papers contain records relating to Shanok’s cantorial activities, as well as his role as assistant army chaplain in the U.S. Army. A large part of the collection consists of photographs. One group of photographs was taken between the years 1943 to 1945 when he was in the Army, and another group records the tribute ceremony held in honor of Cantor Shanok’s retirement from Temple Beth El. A separate folder contains the written documents related to the tribute ceremony, including the guest book and list of attendees, and copies of the invitation and program.
The collection includes a folder of correspondence sent to Cantor Shanok in his official capacity as Cantor, most of which consists of letters of congratulation or thanks and invitations. Another folder holds various newspaper clippings, programs, announcements, newsletters, and notes for speeches, all related to music or his cantorial role. Folders in this first box are arranged alphabetically.
An oversized folder contains awards from the Cantors Assembly and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and another box contains Shanok’s 1927 yearbook from New Haven High School and a plaque given to him by Temple Beth El in appreciation for his service there.
- undated, circa 1943-2002
- Shanok, Morton (Person)
Language of Materials
The collection is in English, French, and Hebrew.
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Morton Shanok was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1910. He graduated from New Haven High School in 1927 and apprenticed under Cantor Adolph Katchko in New York. His first position as cantor was at Temple Beth-El in Rockaway Park, New York, but four years into his tenure, he was drafted into the United States Army. He served as assistant army chaplain during World War II and was instrumental in organizing a safe refuge for Jewish orphans in France. After the war, the orphans were brought to Israel by the Jewish Distribution Committee (JDC).
Cantor Shanok was discharged from the Army in 1945, and he attended the Manhattan School of Music to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree in music. After he graduated, Cantor Shanok and his wife, Beatrice Cohen Shanok, moved to Massachusetts, where he was elected cantor of Temple Beth El in Lynn (later Swampscott). He held this position for thirty-two years.
While at Temple Beth El, Cantor Shanok organized a professional choral society at the synagogue, which often performed with accompaniment by the North Shore Philharmonic. He also founded one of the North Shore’s first youth choirs. He tutored hundreds of bar and bat mitzvah students, and in his later years, this included the children of those he had tutored in the past.
Cantor Shanok retired from Temple Beth El in 1980, and a tribute was held by the congregation to honor his contribution to their lives. He then served as High Holiday Cantor at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly for six years before becoming the Religious Cultural Coordinator at the Jewish Rehabilitation Center for Aged in Swampscott. He was named Person of the Year at the Jewish Rehabilitation Center for Aged in 1990.
While at Temple Beth El, Cantor Shanok also helped change the course of the cantorial profession. He was a founding member of the Cantors Assembly of the National Association of Conservative Cantors and served on the Executive Board. He was also one of the cantors who wrote the curriculum for the H.L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music of The Jewish Theological Seminary. He later received an Honorary Doctorate from the College for his contributions to the profession.
Cantor Shanok died in 2006. He was preceded by his first wife, Beatrice, who died in 1965, and by his second wife, Dorothy Rose Shanok, who died in 2001.
- Materials from the collection.
- “Morton Shanok.” Jewish Music Research Centre (Accessed March 18, 2015), http://www.jewish-music.huji.ac.il/content/morton-shanok>.
- Morton Shanok is born.
- Graduates from New Haven High School.
- Elected Cantor of Temple Beth-El in Rockaway Park, New York.
- Drafted into the Army.
- Discharged from the Army.
- Elected Cantor of Temple Beth El in Lynn, Massachusetts.
- Beatrice Shanok dies.
- Morton Shanok marries Dorothy Rose.
- Retires from Temple Beth El.
- circa 1989
- Becomes Religious Cultural Coordinator at Jewish Rehabilitation Center for Aged.
- Dorothy Shanok dies.
- Morton Shanok dies.
0.75 linear feet (1 manuscript box, 1 half-mauscript box, 1 OS folder)
Morton Shanok was the cantor at Temple Beth El in Lynn (and later Swampscott) for 32 years and, after his retirement, High Holiday Cantor at Temple B’nai Abraham and Religious Cultural Coordinator at the Jewish Rehabilitation Center for Aged. He served in the U.S. Army as assistant army chaplain from 1942-1945. He was a founding member of the Cantors Assembly and helped write the curriculum at the H.L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music of the Jewish Theological Seminary. The material in the collection consists of photographs, correspondence, and documents primarily related to music and Cantor Shanok’s position at Temple Beth El.
Located in Boston, Mass.
Donated by the Jewish Heritage Center of the North Shore in 2013.
Processed by Shannon Struble, 2015
- Cantors (Judaism)
- Cantors Assembly (U.S.)
- Children's choirs
- Choirs (Music)
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- H.L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music
- Jewish Rehabilitation Center for Aged of the North Shore
- Jewish Theological Seminary of America
- Lynn (Mass.)
- Military chaplains
- North Shore (Mass. : Coast)
- Printed ephemera
- Programs (documents)
- Swampscott (Mass.)
- Synagogue music
- Temple Beth El (Swampscott, Mass.)
- Temple B’nai Abraham (Beverly, Mass.)
- Shanok, Morton (Person)
- Guide Cantor Morton Shanok Papers, P-955
- Processed by Shannon Struble
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States