Abraham Zevi Idelsohn

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Abraham Zevi Idelsohn (Hebrew: אַבְרָהָם צְבִי אידלסוןAvrohom Tzvi Idelsohn in Ashkenazi Hebrew; middle name also rendered Tzvi, Zvi, Zwi, or Zebi; July 14, 1882 – August 14, 1938) was a prominent Jewish ethnologist, musicologist and composer, who conducted several comprehensive studies of Jewish music around the world.

Idelsohn was born in Feliksberg, Latvia and trained as a cantor. He worked briefly in both Europe and South Africa before emigrating to Palestine in 1905 and establishing a school of Jewish music there in 1919. In 1922 he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to take a position as professor of Jewish music at Hebrew Union College. He died in Johannesburg, South Africa.[1]

His works include the Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies (10 volumes, 1914–1932) and Jewish Music (1929). He is considered to be the author of the lyrics of the famous Jewish folk song "Hava Nagila."[2][3]

He is the maternal grandfather of Joel Goodman Joffe (Baron Joffe).[3][4]


  1. ^ Norman Lebrecht, The complete companion to 20th century music, Simon & Schuster, 2000. p. 175.
  2. ^ See Who Wrote Havah Nagilah? at RadioHazak.com
  3. ^ a b Joel Joffe mentioned his grandfather and his grandfather's role in writing Hava Nagila in an appearance on BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs on 28 October 2007
  4. ^ More evidence of the relationship between Idelsohn and Joffe is provided in this family tree