Cataloged, arranged, and described by ELIOTT KAHN, DMA, August 2007


The Meyer Posner Music Collection at The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary consists of the published and unpublished music scores of composer/conductor Meyer Posner (ca. 1890–1931) as well as his two published books on music, Harmonie (New York, 1924) and Elementarer Muzik Lerer (Elementary Theory of Music) (New York, 1928), both in Yiddish. There is one (flat) archival box that contains Posner's music programs and a promotional poster, 1921–1944; clippings with biographical information, 1929–1931; and two music sketch books, n.d.

Posner's music consists mainly of choral arrangements of Yiddish folk or original songs for piano or orchestral accompaniment. There are also several manuscript scores of synagogue music. Of special archival interest are the music programs for "Immigrants and Employes [sic] at Ellis Island," 1921 and the Vilner Trupe (Vilna Troupe), 1930 (Box 1, folder 9); as well as a signed contract to provide special music for Maurice Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theatre, 1922 (1/3). There are also manuscript and typescript Yiddish theatre libretti for the shows Rebonishe Kinder, 1921 (1/8), Ir hot Lib Haloymes? n.d., and Posner's own "Hebraishe Opera," n.d (1/7).

Note: All the musical scores and published books may be accessed through The Library Catalog at:

(Search under "Posner, Meyer" or title.)

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The Library received Meyer Posner's scores and papers sometime before 1994. The papers contain several obituaries, as well as music programs that postdate his death in 1931. There is also a handwritten thank-you note drafted by Posner's widow, Dora, in 1931. Dora Posner helped publish some of her husband's music in 1947. His papers were most likely donated by her or her heirs.

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Meyer Posner was a composer, arranger, and conductor active in New York's Yiddish musical world from 1919 until his untimely death in 1931. He was born in the Polish city of Plock, part of the Russian Empire, ca. 1890. Posner received his early religious education in Łódź, and it is unclear when he and his parents emigrated to London. He was choirmaster of the Borough Synagogue in London, ca. 1910. Around this time Posner composed a popular musical setting of Morris Rosenfeld's poem Herbst Bletlach (Autumn Leaves). He graduated from London's Guild Hall Conservatory in 1914. By 1916 Posner was music director and conductor at the Great Synagogue in Duke's Place. During these years he supposedly composed a Hebrew operetta entitled Ezra and Nehemia and a grand opera, Saul, though neither score is extant.

Posner emigrated to the United States in 1919 to conduct New York's Workmen's Circle Choir (Arbiter Ring Kor). He composed and arranged many choral settings of Yiddish songs (for piano or orchestra accompaniment) for this ensemble. Several of them were published by Metro Music between 1927 and 1930. Composer Lazar Weiner succeeded Posner as conductor of the Workmen's Circle Choir after his death in 1931.

During the 1920s, Meyer Posner led a hectic but productive musical life within New York and New Jersey's vibrant Jewish communities. Around 1922, he composed and conducted incidental music for two Yiddish plays, Amol iz Geven a Maise and Dos Groise Gevins. He published several music articles for the newspaper Der Tog in 1923 and in 1930 he conducted a vocal quartet for Der Tog's radio show. For a time, he conducted choirs for cantor Josef Rosenblatt at the Hungarian Congregation Ohav Zedek and for cantors Mordechai Hershman, David Roitman, and Josef Shlisky in concert. In addition to the Workmen's Circle Choir, Posner directed the Synagogue Choral Alliance, the Children's Choir at the Sholom Aleichem Schools, and, in 1928, he succeeded Leo Low as conductor of the historic Paterson Hebrew Singing Society, founded in 1911. Around 1929, Posner's composition "The Machine," set to a biting text by Morris Rosenfeld, caused a great stir when it was performed by the 200-voice Workmen's Circle Choir with orchestra. He also provided Yiddish folk song arrangements for the Vilna Troupe's show Der Regenbogen (The Rainbow) during their 1930 New York tour.

Meyer Posner was married in 1929. He died suddenly on February 8, 1931, of a heart attack, while preparing for an orchestral performance of Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah at New York's Town Hall. The vivid account of his funeral given in The Forward describes 700 mourners standing in the freezing rain on New York's Lower East Side listening to cantors Josef Rosenblatt, David Roitman, and Josef Shlisky sing psalms and memorial prayers while accompanied by the Shul Singers Union and Workmen's Circle choirs.

Note: Biographical information comes from The Meyer Posner Music Collection.

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11Clippings, biographical material, 1929-1931

2Composition sketch book, n.d.

3Contract, Yiddish Art Theatre, 1922

4Correspondence, English, 1931; 1950

5Correspondence, French, n.d.

6Counterpoint exercise book, n.d.

7Libretti, manuscript and published, ca. 1925; 1888

8Libretto, Rebonishe Kinder, [typescript], 1921

9Programs, 1917-1944

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