Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Emil Skobeloff: Press

For everyone who came out to see Emil Skobeloff and Or Chadash tonight, they put their heart and soul into their music, playing a combination of religious and non-religious songs (great job on "Love Potion #9!), and energizing the audience. People were dancing, clapping and having a great time. Thanks again to Emil Skobeloff and to Or Chadash for a great time. 

Joshua Waterston - Beth Israel Newsletter (May 22, 2011)
- (Mar 22, 2009)
"Utilizing various American melodic styles, Emil Skobeloff has fashioned a CD full of delectable melodies that will speak to 21st century Jews while enhancing their appreciation of the Sabbath liturgy at the same time. It is obvious that Cantor Skobeloff has a talent for melodic writing. I would not be surprised if a number of these songs will become part of a "traditional" Sabbath repertoire. Kudos."
"And Sarah Danced" took four years to write, record and produce. It is a labour of love that brings Shabbat to life whenever you listen to it. It is highly recommended.
"Just a note to let you know how much I appreciate your music in "And Sarah Danced." I have been using it on the air quite often on my daily Jewish music program on WNWR and in Philadelphia, and audience reaction has been excellent. You've created a fresh and dynamic new sound that is musical, spiritual, and very enjoyable. The technical quality, orchestration, selections, and your voice are all first-rate, and your CD makes a wonderful new addition to my playlist.

Thanks for the music!
“Emil Skobeloff and Or Chadash have released an album of all new tunes to liturgical music called "And Sarah Danced.: The album is thoroughly American in concept, and takes the listener on a walk through fifty-plus years of American popular styles, attached to Jewish liturgical texts. Skobeloff succeeds in creating some good tunes and some are quite catchy. So for those fond of American style music for Jewish worship, check out this album. Several of the successful songs are the "Magen Avot", "Ma Tovu" and "Ashrei".”
Emil's CD is beautiful, both the lovely packaging, and the wonderful music he brings to us. The cover photograph absolutely grabs your attention from first glance, and makes you want to know more about the music, as well as the artist. You won't be disappointed with the complete package.

He brings a very special music to the forefront with his beautiful vocals, and equally nice accompaniments, including his own wonderful guitar playing.

In today's world of so much of the "same ole, same ole," Emil cuts thru all of that, and gives us something very special to remember. I loved all of it!

Darcy Cotten, Nashville, TN
Wow! This is beautifully done - the music and songs - everything! I love how each song makes you feel different and that the explanations on the inside cover portray those feelings so well. My kids say it best though. In the words of my four year old, "Mommy, can you always play this CD?" and " Can you play this again and again and again?" Today I just caught my 2 year old singing along with one of the songs...
Rivkie Strasberg - CDBaby (Mar 22, 2009)
Of Emil's You Tube Video, "Mumbai Kaddish"

Emil, the music and song are touching and sung from your heart. Haniggun Hu Ait Haneshomah - The melody is the pen of the soul. Thanks for expressing how we feel... Let's combat the dark and evil forces that did this by bringing light and good into the world.
annonymous - You Tube (Dec 23, 2008)
Emil has created a beautiful, haunting melody to go with these sad, sometimes horrific, photos. Just as when we study the Holocaust, we must remember this terrible event. We must remind the world that this happened. Maybe this time, the non-Jewish world will care and do something to stop this madness from continuing. Chabad has asked us to perform good deeds in response. Thank you, Emil, for creating something beautiful.

Written about Emil's video, "Mumbai Kaddish"
Emil Skobeloff of Ohev Shalom, who performs a concert April 17, combines traditions in his songs.

Cantor Emil Skobeloff's singing performance at Beth Jacob Hebrew Day School in South Philadelphia was the start of a career.

"I sang 'America the Beautiful' and the choir director and music teacher, Mary Romig deYoung, said, 'Where have you been? I have been seeking such a voice,' " Skobeloff said of his memorable fourth-grade experience.
"She remained my teacher through my late 20s and early 30s."

The success of Skobeloff's lessons will be heard at 7 p.m. April 17 when he joins Pete Huttlinger, an award-winning guitarist, in concert at Congregation Ohev Shalom in Wallingford.

The public event will feature a mix of Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino (Hebrew-Spanish) and English songs, including selections from Skobeloff's CD, Jonah's Songs .
Skobeloff, 54, of Wallingford, met Huttlinger, 43 - a Nashville resident, and a former accompanist for John Denver - through a mutual friend.

"It was magic. Once we realized what we had, we had to record and perform together," Skobeloff said.
Songs selected for the concert include "Eli Eli", prose set to music with lyrics that include "Oh Lord my God / May these things never end: / The surf and the sea / The rush of the waters / The lightning of the heavens / The prayers of mankind."

"Hayu Leilot" is a musical story, he said, of lost love. Skobeloff also will perform a song about Israel's 1967 Six Day War, "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav."

A skilled guitarist in his own right with a warm, powerful baritone voice, Skobeloff brings a soulful sound to his songs. His early musical influences include the gospel hymns he heard while passing outside South Philadelphia churches on Sunday mornings, he said. As his sister was dying, he said, he found himself playing his original melody, "Nina's Song," with the lyrics to the African American spiritual, "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child."

"Each song is meant to tell a story. The melody represents a place I've been physically or mentally in my life, something that has meaning to my life," Skobeloff said.

Ohev Shalom's Rabbi Mark Robbins said: "Cantor Skobeloff inspires our community, and me, personally, both in the soulfulness and spirit of his singing and prayer, and in the great musical talent he brings to his delivery. "He inspires as cantor, prayer leader, and as a songwriter and singer who weaves many different strands of Jewish culture together in his music - Yiddish, Ladino, Hebrew, amongst others."

"I've always loved music," said Skobeloff, who, in addition to guitar, studied violin and viola. "I was terrified of the audiences, and the lights so bright, they hurt my eyes. I would tell my mother, 'My knees were knocking, but I lost myself in the music and the fear doesn't matter.' "

Huttlinger began playing guitar at age 14 and, in 1984, graduated cum laude from Berklee College of Music in Boston. He performed with San Diego and Houston symphonies, with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, and with Denver from 1994 until the singer's death in 1997.
Competing against 37 guitarists at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kan., he won the 2000 National Fingerpick Guitar Championship. Hired to play for Skobeloff's CD, Huttlinger was impressed with the cantor's voice. A fan of rock, folk, jazz, country and Latin music, Huttlinger said he enjoyed learning a new musical genre.

"He has an incredible, deep baritone voice. We hit it off right away," Huttlinger said.
Gloria A. Hoffner - Philadelphia Inquirer (Apr 3, 2005)
Emil Skobeloff, an emergency-room physician whose skills are often called upon in life-and-death situations, has been known to break into song while on rounds at Nazareth Hospital. That's not surprising, considering that the doctor also doubles as the cantor for Congregation Ohev Shalom in Wallingford, and learned to chant Jewish liturgy long before he ever picked up a stethoscope.
"It's not like I walk into a room and say, 'Hey buddy, want to hear a song?'

"Sometimes, I'll see something and it makes me spontaneously break into lyrics," says Skobeloff, 54. "I think when you are intensely musical, it doesn't matter where you are -- in the emergency room, at a social gathering. It's part of the fabric of your being."
The Haddon Heights, N.J., native, who received classical voice training while attending the former Beth Jacob Orthodox Hebrew Day School in South Philadelphia, has always had two dreams. The first was to become a doctor; the second, to record a full-length album.
In 1984, Skobeloff already had his own business buying and selling violins, and was working as the cantor at a New Jersey synagogue when he enrolled in the Medical College of Pennsylvania. The decision to go from holding down a full-time job to becoming a full-time student, he says, ultimately led to the breakup of his already troubled 15-year marriage, a separation that was so difficult that he has since had little contact with his two children from that relationship.

"I was trying to pursue this lifelong dream, and this was a casualty along the way," he explains. "It was a great tragedy, and caused me enormous personal pain."
Fast-forward 20 years and Skobeloff has finally fulfilled his second dream by recording a compact disc. Pain and sorrow seem to emanate from his voice, whether he's singing in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino or putting his stamp on a gospel tune.

But so does joy, which the cantor has experienced through his work in medicine, his congregation and from his second wife, Rise, and the three children they've raised during a 16-year marriage. In fact, the album's title, "Jonah's Songs," is named for his youngest son. Recorded in Nashville with longtime John Denver guitarist Pete Huttlinger (the performers were introduced through a mutual friend), the CD is not country in the traditional sense, but blends various examples of Jewish and American folk music.
Bryan Schwartzman - The Jewish Exponent, (Feb 10, 2005)
This weekend of Yom Kippur, as has done annually since 1972, Dr. Emil M. Skobeloff, an emergency physician at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, PA will don a clerical robe and prayer shawl and stand before about 50 worshipers in an old hilltop chapel in Pittsgrove Township, Salem County.

Emil's rich bass-baritone voice will fill the chapel with prayers and melodies he'd learned as a boy from Sigmund Blass, the Hungarian-born cantor at Temple Beth Sholom on the White Horse Pike in Haddon heights, where Emil grew up.

He was just a year out of Rutgers-Camden when he was invited to help conduct Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at Sharis Israel, the three-story wooden chapel that has stood for more than a century at Gershel and Shiff Avenues in Alliance, a town no longer found on maps.

In 1882, a handful of refugees from the pogroms of Czarist Russia had arrived in the South Jersey wilderness and founded Alliance, the first Jewish farming colony in the United States. Later, Jews who survived Hitler's Europe settled there, too. Today, they are all buried in the cemetery across Gershel Avenue from Sharis Israel, a chapel now held together mainly by memories.
Why, then, would a 46-year-old doctor, who also teaches at both the medical College of Pennsylvania and MCP/Hahneman School of Medicine, return year after year to this tiny place? Because he has memories of his own.

" I had a great love for Cantor Blass, and for my father," Emil explained. "My father and I, on the High Holy Days, we used to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in synagogue, and sing and harmonize. The fondest memories that I have of my father were centered around this singing. I guess if I stopped doing this, if I go to somebody else's synagogue and become a spectator, it's like the melodies will go away and the memories will fade."

Emil is descended from a line of Hasidic rabbis, cantors and writers in Horodec, Belarus. His dad, Ernest Skobeloff, who came to the United States as a boy in 1915, was a clinical pathologist who ran Scoby Laboratories on North Fourth Street in Camden. He died in 1979.

" Cantor Blass was a great man, and also a concentration camp survivor, as was his wife." said Emil, a 1967 Haddon Heights High grad. "So I just feel that sense of history. If I stop singing, where will it go? There's also this passion for the music. If you immerse yourself in it, if you wrap it around you, which is what the Hasidic movement sought to do, it becomes a coat. It envelops you in a spiritualism that is hard to find today."

During the rest of the year, Emil attends a synagogue in Wallingford, Delaware County, PA, where he resides with his wife the former Rise (pronounced Ree-sa) Kaplan, and their three children, Ezra Aaron, 7, Sarah Elyse, 4, and Jonah Benjamin, 14 months. His mom, the former Rose Greenspan, lives in Linwood, Atlantic County.
Will he continue to trek to Salem County each year at this time?

" I think I probably will keep doing it, " said Emil. "I think it's what links me to the many generations of my ancestors, for whom Judaism was not just a religion but a passion. It's what links me to all those generations of scholars and rabbis and teachers and cantors. And at the same time, like tonight when I got home, and my Sarah is singing, "Ha-yom, ha-yom, ha-yom" from the service, and I say to myself: As long as I keep doing this, maybe one or more of my these kids will be the next one."
David Lee Preston - Philadelphia Inquirer (Sep, 1996)