Yossele Rosenblatt

The cantor whose religious observance led him to reject some offers of fame and fortune.

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In the end, however, Rosenblatt could not bring himself to agree. But not wishing to offend Campanini, he asked the president of Ohab Zedek, Moritz Newman, to provide the final answer. Newman wrote to Campanini that "the Rev. Rosenblatt's sacred position in the synagogue does not permit him to enter the operatic stage."

The offer--and its refusal--caused a storm, with reporters from national newspapers, as well as the Jewish dailies and weeklies, vying to understand how Rosenblatt could turn down such an offer of fame and fortune. In an interview with the trade journal Musical America, Rosenblatt said: "The cantor of the past and the opera star of the future waged a fierce struggle within me." He claimed that "suddenly a voice whispered into my ear, 'Yossele, don't do it!'"

Now a celebrity, Rosenblatt was in demand everywhere. Appearing just a few weeks later on the steps of The New York Public Library for the War Savings Stamp Campaign, he sang "The Star Spangled Banner," followed by "Keili, Keili," at the conclusion of which Enrico Caruso, the great star of the opera, stepped forward and kissed him.