OTTAWA — Perhaps it was inevitable that Isaac Muzikansky would be a musician. With such a name, what else could he be? Though by profession he was an electronics engineer, since retiring two years ago, he has had time to pursue his love of music.
In October, Muzikansky launched his first CD, the culmination of years of singing and playing guitar in various groups and settings. Titled Isaac Muzikansky – My Parents’ Favourite Yiddish Songs, the collection evolved from Muzikansky’s childhood in what he calls “the spiritually frozen lands of the former Soviet Union.”
Life for the Muzikansky family was extremely difficult. Muzikansky’s parents had been separated during World War II when his father was drafted into the Russian army. Through sheer luck and the help of the Red Cross, they were eventually reunited.
“In spite of all the difficulties in their lives, my parents’ spirits were never broken, and they never gave up their dreams of keeping the Yiddishkeit alive in our family. A big part of this was the Yiddish music and the songs they sang together almost every evening after dinner,” said Muzikansky at the launch of his CD.
The Muzikansky family kept their Jewish traditions alive in spite of fear of persecution. Once Isaac and his wife, Mara, arrived in Canada as immigrants, they cherished the freedom to openly embrace their Judaism and to pass it on to their own children.
The family has made an effort to give back to the Jewish community, which welcomed them warmly when they arrived in Ottawa in 1980, knowing no one. The family has volunteered in various ways, with Isaac sharing his musical talent and love of Yiddish by giving concerts to schools, seniors groups and various community events. His repertoire includes songs in Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino, Russian and English.
Muzikansky has spent a week at the annual KlezKanada Jewish/Yiddish music festival, enjoying the company of musicians who spoke and played Yiddish music. “In my opinion, Yiddish doesn’t have a future,” he said. “I understand 100 per cent, but I cannot speak, and my children only understand a few words.”
He hopes that through music, the language will be passed down and shared by future generations.
Following a recent concert in Montreal, Muzikansky is preparing for a pre-Chanukah concert in Toronto. He’ll be appearing at the Winter Garden Court at Baycrest, 3560 Bathurst St., on Dec. 19, at 1:30 p.m. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Muzikansky or to order his CD, visit www.isaacmuzikansky.com.