Longtime Chevra Thilim cantor dies, 71

Cantor Avram Wilkomirski, who led San Francisco's Congregation Chevra Thilim in song and prayer for more than a quarter century, died May 7 at the city's Jewish Home for the Aged. He was 71.

He had been ill for some time.

Born in Leipzig, Germany, the son of renowned cantor and composer Nachum Wilkomirski, Avram Wilkomirski immigrated to Israel in 1935. He performed as a leading tenor with the Tel Aviv Opera for many years and also served as a cantor in the Israel Defense Force.

"Golda Meir was a great admirer of his," said his sister Genia Ury of San Francisco. "He was Chaim Weizmann's preferred cantor."

Wilkomirski relocated to the United States in the early 1960s. He joined Chevra Thilim, which is Orthodox, in 1963 and stayed until 1991.

"He was a tremendous singer," said Charles Lewin, president of the synagogue. "He attracted a lot of people."

Wilkomirski, according to those who knew him, was also a gifted musicologist who had accumulated a wealth of musical material over the years. And he was learned in other fields as well.

"You could talk to him about everything," Lewin said. "He commanded several languages."

Added Rabbi Malcolm Sparer, a former Chevra Thilim leader who now works as a chaplain at the Jewish Home: "He was very, very knowledgeable in Talmud and Jewish history. In fact, I have a suspicion that he probably had smicha [rabbinic ordination]. But he never mentioned it and I never asked.

"He was a cantor from the old school, one who studies daily. He learned up until the time that he couldn't anymore."

A memorial service for Wilkomirski was held Tuesday of last week at Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco.

Wilkomirksi is survived by his sister.

Contributions in his name can be sent to Congregation Chevra Thilim, 751 25th Ave., S.F., CA 94121.

Leslie Katz

Leslie Katz is a former J. staff writer.