NYC Cantor Azi Schwartz looks forward to sharing his love of Jewish liturgical music with Norfolk area audience

by | Jul 26, 2021 | What’s Happening

Originally published in the April 12, 2021 issue.

Sunday, April 25, 7:30 pm, $36

 Joel Rubin

He is the 40-year-old grandson of four Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Czechoslovakia who all emigrated to Israel where they met after the War. One grandfather was a cantor who inspired young Azi Schwartz’s love of liturgical music. That passion, and accompanying soaring voice, has taken him to the heights of the Jewish world, as senior cantor for the past dozen years at famed Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan.

“I was in a choir in Israel and the director received a job offer to come to New York City,” Schwartz says during a Zoom interview last month. “He said he would only take it if I could come with him. And so my wife, who was in medical school at the time, and our two children, moved to the United States.” She would return to Israel to complete her training to become a rheumatologist, and they would add two more to the family once they were back together again in America.

At Park Avenue Synagogue, Schwartz did not begin that shul’s tradition of international leadership in the creative interpretation of musical prayer. “It was that way before I was born, even before my grandfather was born,” he says. “We are tasked today with honoring that heritage and continuing to push it and reinvent it. We support and cherish Jewish music like no other institution, and not just synagogue, anywhere in the world.”

Cantor Schwartz has found a worldwide audience because his music, widely available on the internet, is, in his words, “meeting people where they are. We have a responsibility to appeal to their sensibilities. The whole point of Judaism is L’dor va Dor. So, for instance, our adaptation of Adon Olam to I’ll be Back from Hamilton was a good way to get to young people’s hearts and gain their attention.”

In fact, it got everyone’s attention that has seen that 2016 link.

At the Temple Israel event, attendees will see and hear that now famous rendition of Adom Olam, and many more from the Cantor’s vast video archive during a virtual program, created exclusively for and hosted by Temple Israel in Norfolk. But, it’s not necessary to be a Temple Israel member or area resident to view this incredible program. In fact, all are encouraged to participate. “We’ll cover some ground from the bimah to Broadway, from the traditional to the popular. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah will be there, Lecha Dodi and other iconic pieces.”

So, purchase a double chai ($36) ticket and settle back for an unforgettable concert and then live conversation that I am eager to moderate. “Music is very powerful in inspiring people and building community and connecting Jews to their hearts and to their traditions,” says Cantor (please call me Azi) Schwartz. “I’m very excited about this opportunity on April 25. I’m sorry I can’t be there in person, but still I can’t wait.”

To view a portion of the Zoom interview that Joel Rubin conducted with Cantor Schwartz and to purchase tickets, visit