Born into a Mountain Jewish family, he was sent for medical studies to Zürich. After the October Revolution, in 1917, which made further studies in Europe impossible, his family sent him to the United States. There he married a fellow Russian émigré in San Francisco.
Less than a year later, he chose to return to China, where he entered the world of Shanghai's academia and, together with other highly qualified Jewish musicians (i.e., Alfred Wittenberg, Walter Joachim, Arrigo Foa, etc.), who had fled the Russian pogroms and revolution, trained a number of young Chinese musicians in classical music, who in turn became leading musicians in contemporary China. Between 1918 and 1947, he worked to create a synthesis of Chinese musical elements and Western techniques of orchestral composition. In 1919, his son, Jacob Avshalomov was born, who became a composer and conductor, too.
In 1947, he moved to the USA, where he already had spent three years in the mid-1920s.