A Grandson's Quest to Preserve His Jewish Heritage

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Lionel Ziprin frets that he won't be able to fulfill his grandfather's dying wish to share the Jewish music and stories he recorded more than 50 years ago with the world. Jon Kalish hide caption

toggle caption Jon Kalish

Back in the 1950s, Harry Smith, the renowned ethnomusicologist, spent two years recording the songs and stories of Nuftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia, a prominent Jewish orthodox rabbi who lived on New York's Lower East Side.

Abulafia was a living repository of sacred Jewish music dating back centuries. After hearing the rabbi, Smith set up a studio in his synagogue and recorded him, capturing Jewish cantorial prayers as well as songs, folk music and Abulafia's retelling of Yiddish stories.

Smith never published the recordings. Before Abulafia died, the rabbi asked his grandson, Lionel Ziprin, to make sure the recordings were someday shared with the world.

For half a century, they languished in a variety of storage facilities around New York City. Now Ziprin is 81 years old and in poor health. But he has taken up a mission to fulfill his grandfather's dying wish and release a collection of Abulafia's recordings before they're lost forever.



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