CANTOR ABRAHAM IMMERMAN was a legendary South African cantor, barmitzvah teacher and educator. Known as ‘Der Blinde Chazzan’ and ‘The Man with the Computer Brain’, due to his blindness from birth and remarkable memory, he died aged 96 in Cape Town on 7th April 2003. Cantor Immerman was perhaps most famous for having learnt the entire Torah and synagogue services off by heart by the time he was a young man, despite being born blind. He served his community in Cape Town and its surrounds for more than 60 years and has been described as ‘a legend’, ‘an icon’ and ‘a truly remarkable man.’

Please enjoy a special film made in his honour titled ‘Legacy of Light’, as well as the original interview, filmed in 1997, from which it emerged.  Please feel free to post your comments below in our comments section to pay tribute to this very special man.

To send photos, items of interest or enquire about a DVD or digital copies of both films, please email info@lifestories.co.za

Legacy of Light Film 

The Full Interview 

 

 

47 Responses to Cantor Abraham Immerman – Legacy of Light

  1. Gail Loon - Lustig October 24, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

    For me Cantor Immerman was a man to be awed. Everyone knew about his amazing memory, his phenomenal knowledge of the Torah and yet, on listening to him talking and telling, I am struck as to how tough life really was for him. He felt stressed about performing well, about being criticised and ostracised and were it not for his unique personality and character, his story would have been very different. I take from this great video many pointers about community, about spirit and giving. A humbling lesson here.

  2. Mark Immerman September 17, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    Hi Selwyn, I have the Immerman family tree and will be happy to discuss it with you. Send me your contact details. Immerman@prodigy.net

  3. Dave Raphael September 10, 2017 at 9:12 am #

    Really enjoyed your wonderful tribute to Cantor Immerman. I went to visit him at his flat in Marais Road. While we were chatting, there was a knock at the door. As quick as a flash he said, “That must be my blind date” 🙂

  4. Solly Kaplinski September 4, 2017 at 6:40 pm #

    I have just watched the very moving film, It conveys with dignity and respect the outstanding attributes of a remarkable, exceptional and truly unique person who had a profound and lifelong effect on so many people – including me! Cantor Immerman left a huge legacy and footprint which you have captured so well – and with great sensitivity.

  5. Cheryl Greenblo Ziv September 3, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    Thank you Lisa for making this well-deserved tribute to this amazing man. What memories this brought back-of singing in class at primary school, of my brother Larry’s barmitzvah, of the Vredehoek shul….

  6. Beryl Baleson September 2, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    Lisa, what a wonderful tribute to such a remarkable person. My mind goes back at least 65 years and more when I think of Cantor Immerman teaching us Hebrew songs during our Cheder Lessons. As soon as he heard my voice he would say “Beryl Juter – how are your Grandparents in the Strand?”My grandmother ran a boarding house in The Strand to which he went in the summer. I was always amazed at how he knew our names by recognizing our little voices in those days and of course knew our family connections so well.

  7. Asher Glaun September 1, 2017 at 12:38 am #

    Not only do I remember the man who taught me my barmitzvah lessons, his Vrystaad accent and his ever present humour but down to how the flat smelled, the small table we sat at with the plastic table cloth with the yellow flowers and the many times my Mom and I walked up the red stone steps to get to his flat. The vividness of these memories are no doubt due to the impression left by a truly remarkable man.

  8. Harvey Plax - Los Angeles August 29, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

    Watched your movie. Brought tears to my eyes. What an incredible man. Knew him well from my Herzlia days.

  9. Harold Zuckerman August 28, 2017 at 11:05 pm #

    He was exactly as he is described by so many people who knew him, a total Mench, a unique person and a genius in his own right. Unfortunately, although I certainly realised how unique he was, I was too young to grasp how absolutely marvelous he was when I was given an honour to doven at MINYAN Yosef at the cheder in Hope Street. He was a rock of support, one word and he addressed me by name. He certainly deserves all the accolades being voiced about him. Good on you LISA CHAIT

    • Lisa Chait August 29, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

      Thank you Harold. It has been a privilege for creative designer/editor Shawn Levin and I to create this project with the support of generous donors and Herzlia School. A unique experience indeed and we are so pleased at the response.

  10. Solly Berger August 28, 2017 at 6:24 pm #

    I was in the original class of Herzlia in 1942 and soon after that Cantor Immerman arrived and would teach us Hebrew and Israeli songs and zmirot from the siddur. He was a friend of my father and spoke at my barmitzvah at the Zionist Hall. He subsequently taught my son his portion. But my story is hilarious and embarrassing. Years later, in the 1980s, I volunteered to do the haftorah at the Gardens Shul. Naturally I attempted to learn my barmitzvah portion and surprised myself with how well I remembered it, but had difficulty with two trop. Who better to consult than Cantor Abe Immerman. I called him, he knew immediately which haftorah it was and asked me which were the difficult trop. Without thinking I described what the one trop looked like “and the other one”. He laughed and said “and how would I know if I had never seen them. What are the words?” And with my reply he responded. Redfaced I thanked him

  11. selwyn leibowitz August 28, 2017 at 2:07 pm #

    excellent documentary,my late mother was an born ANN IMMERMAN,.SHE WAS BORN SOMEWHERE IN THE FREE STATE.HER ONE SISTER MARY PEREL(nee immerman) lived in somerset west most of her life.if there is some family connection,i would be grateful for someone to respond.

    • Mark Immerman September 17, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

      Hi Selwyn, I have the Immerman family tree and will be happy to discuss it with you. Send me your contact details. Immerman@prodigy.net

  12. Hillary Barwin August 27, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

    My Uncle Abe was an amazing man who dedicated his entire life to teaching children and serving the Community. He outlived two wives, was independent, wise, led an active life, had an exceptional sense of humour and a phenomenal memory. Our family were extremely proud of all his achievements and my late father, Joe, would have been touched to witness this outstanding event preserving his brother’s legacy. Thank you to Lisa Chait and the entire team who were involved in this project and everyone who has posted articles online. You have all captured the essence of this great man who lived in darkness but found the light.

  13. Lilian Lomofsky August 26, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

    Lilian Lomofsky August 26

    I met Cantor Immerman when he came to Salisbury (Zimbabwe) in 1961 and 1962 for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. He conducted the overflow serviice for the Salisbury Hebrew Congegation. The Rabbi arranged for him to stay with my grandmother, Mrs Bassa Passov, who ran a strcitly Kosher home for visitors. She was quite nervous because she had never had a blind person stay with her. She told us that the only time he asked for assistance was to ask her if his tie was staright. Apart from this he was entriely indepnedent. They became good friends and he never forgot her. A few years later I moved to Cape Town and I was teaching at Herzlia School. I introduced myself to Cantor Immerman and he remebered my voice as Mrs Passov’s granddaughter and always enquired about her. I also recall how the children at Herzlia Primary School enjoyed the singing lessons with him. A remarkable man and an inspiration. Thank you for the Video.

  14. Former Pupil August 26, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    One story we have to tell is how when the Herzlia High School rugby team would play a match against another school they used to call out ‘Cantor’ as a code when they wanted to play on the blind -side. Truly, That was the code word. … ‘Cantor’

  15. Margaret Nachman August 23, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    I was sitting in the coffee shop at HIghlands House some years ago with my late mother when Cantor Immerman walked past, stopped abruptly and said “Dorothy!”-My mother. It was probably 60 odd years since he had heard her voice. When he came to Oudtschoorn as a young man my grandfather, Aaron Simanowitz was the Rabbi at the St John’s Street Shul ( No longer there but the Bima is in the museum there). Cantor Immerman spent an enormous amount of time in their home where he learned the barmitzah portions with my grandfather. My mother remembered him as a quite remarkable man

  16. margaret shaadmi (rosen) August 23, 2017 at 6:57 am #

    i will never forget this amazing man. i grew up living practically next door to him (his wife was my piano teacher) and one of the amazing memories i have is after leaving cape town for israel we met up after many many years at a reception given for him and went with my mom, goldie rosen and sister diane, we stood for some time in a queue awaiting out turn and when my mom spoke he immediately recognized her and us as he did everyone who turned up to meet once again this amazing man. a much deserved tribute………… thanks for the memory

  17. Ivan Imerman August 22, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

    My dear Uncle Abe was in inspiration to me in life “Never give up & always do your best”, he said, and this lesson I took with me in life. 2 week before my Bar Mitzvah he asked me to sing my Parsha. “That’s the wrong Parsha” he said. So he taught me the correct one in 6 nights over two weeks. When my son Ian had his Bar Mitzvah we had the privilege of his attendance. I asked our Northcliffe Rabbi if Uncle Abe could do the first part of the service. I took him to the Bima, “Open the book on page xxx and make sure you turn the pages” he said “I don’t want the people to think I am blind. The Choir master, Brian, asked him to do the rest of the service but he replied that he was a bit too tired. I asked him why and he said “The Choir master has a nice voice so I would like to listen to him now” Life goes on and lets not forget those that influenced us most.

  18. Bennie Katzman August 22, 2017 at 7:11 pm #

    Cantor Immerman lived in Oudtshoorn from 1936 till 1944. As a young boy I have wonderful memories of him as a teacher and as a Chazan davening in the St. John Street Shul. He taught many of the young boys at the time their Barmitzvah Portion (including my late brother Hillel) and he never ever forgot which Maftir and Haftarah he had taught each of his pupils. When he moved to Cape Town in 1944, the Oudtshoorn Jewish Community was deeply upset, and I vividly recall all the tributes which were paid to him, which he so richly deserved. Another memory I have is when my younger son was given the wrong Maftir to learn for his upcoming Barmitzvah by one of the Rabbonim in Cape Town. My wife and I mentioned the Maftir he was learning, and the date etc, to Cantor Immerman. He immediately informed us that my son was learning the incorrect Maftir, and told us which one it should be ! I always thought that if Cantor Immerman had been living in America,he would have been an International Star. His Birthday was on the 4th of April, and he always joked that “I came forth on the fourth of the fourth.” My best description of him is that he was a MENSCH.

  19. Martin Michael Furman August 22, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

    Since Cantor Immerman entered the Old Age home and on my visits to SA while my late Dad was alive I would accompany him to visit Cantor Immerman each week and my duty was to get the whisky out his cupboard and pour out three schnapses… I loved his jokes and english puns and visiting him on Friday morning also included Parashat hashavua. To me he was a Tzaddik of the highest order

  20. Eleanor Katzeff August 22, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

    So beautiful! Thank you for the inspiration

  21. Toni Liebenstein Milliner August 22, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

    I am filled with a profound sense of compassion and humility- listen to a true teacher of our generation. The first video is a tribute and the second is Cantor Immerman’s biography and lessons of life. Thank you to the creator of these beautiful videos.

  22. Ronnie Gotkin August 22, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    Outstanding project and a very fitting and moving tribute to an extraordinary person. z’l

  23. Natalie Jaff Barnett August 22, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

    How wonderful! What a magnificent legacy.

  24. Gideon Nurick August 22, 2017 at 4:37 pm #

    Thanks so much for making this film. A wonderful tribute to an incredible person.

  25. Rosemary Shapiro-Liu August 22, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

    I’m blown away. Well done

  26. Elad Pessach August 22, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

    It’s been a while since I thought of Cantor Immerman. Thanks for a great tribute to a very special man who made an unbelievable impression on generations of Cape Town barmitzva boys. I just saw the movie, great job.

  27. Kerry Dale Hoffman August 22, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

    So special! What a beautiful tribute to such an incredibly inspiring human.

  28. Hilary Melnick Kowalski August 22, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    He was an amazing,inspiring and beautiful man. He lived a few houses away from my grandparents in Vredehoek I often had the privilege of an affectionate pat on my keppie and words of encouragement as he would stop to chat to my Bobba on the way to Schoonder Street Shul. Such fond memories of a truly special human being

  29. Mark Immerman August 22, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

    Thank you Lisa for doing an amazing job in interviewing Uncle Abie. As a child we used to visit our relatives in Cape Town every year and would always include a visit to Uncle Abie and Aunty Pauline. He never failed to recognize our voices and we were always in awe of his great memory. He was a remarkable human being and was loved and adored by the entire Immerman family. His handicap was never an issue to him and never held him back in life. He touched so many peoples lives and his memory is a great comfort to us all that knew him.

  30. Lisa Chait August 22, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    FROM LEN IN OZ: I had the pleasure of meeting this remarkable man when he courted and married a dear old friend of our family……Pauleen Seagul.She was a single nursing sister and they married late in life. She was a kind and good woman who left Port Elizabeth to marry him.What was so impressive about his memory was that if you gave him your date of birth he could not only tell you what day of the week it fell on but what day and date would be your barmitZvah or 21st!
    There marriage was of fairly short duration as Paulene died of kidney disease a few years later.

  31. Issy Nochomovitz August 22, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

    Every Sunday, for a year, my dad drove me from Sea Point to Abe’s home in Kloof Nek/Vredehoek (not sure which) for my Barmitzvah lesson. We were not direct relatives, but connected through my dad’s mom Sophie, whose sister had married an Immerman – their children were Rose, Abe, Leiba. As much as I hated “doing the learning” it was quite an experience with this remarkable man. He had the patience of a “Saint”, the non-Catholic version!! The ripple effect he has had on peoples lives makes the butterfly story seem very tame.

  32. Michael Bagraim August 22, 2017 at 11:08 am #

    Thank you for letting me be a small part in this production, I really enjoyed it and I’m feeling extremely proud. Well done to you and all those that helped you, the end result is absolutely superb. – Best Regards Michael Bagraim – Shadow Minister of Labour, National Assembly Member of Parliament​. “

  33. Donna Furman August 22, 2017 at 3:40 am #

    Cantor Immerman was my cousin. I often used to go and visit him at Highlands House and he always recognized my voice. On one occasion I was visiting him with my late Oupa – I was about 14 at the time and Uncle Abe as we called him said that he was going to do Maftir/Haftorah that coming Shabbos and the Parash was Devarim. He asked me to follow in the Chumash to see that he did not make any mistakes,which of course he did not. I also remember his wonderful sense of humor and the many laughs we had together. He truly was a legend in our time.

  34. Selwyn Scher - Via FB August 21, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    I had the privilege of being taught by him and often walked him on shabbat from shul. He would recognize me by voice even 20years later and would recall my barmitzvah portion and the date. What a special and gifted man whose memory lives on. He was one in a billion.

  35. Isaac Hasson August 21, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

    Cantor Immerman tought many of my family, including uncles and myself and prepared us for our barmitzvahs.
    I remember him so well and after 30 years met him again and he remembered me and the portion I had read. Incredible human being.

  36. Gabi Baigel (nee Geffen) August 21, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    My favorite memories of blind uncle Abie (we had a second uncle Abie), was from the regular Sunday night family gatherings at our aunt Rose’s home. He would always take an hour or more from the adult conversations to entertain us kids who would gather around him in the front living room where he would tell stories and jokes. We loved to test him on his magical ability with dates and days but he would never divulge how he instantly knew that August 21st, 2017 would be a Monday etc! He was sometimes accompanied by a second, much younger blind cousin by marriage, Herbie, who played the piano accordion and sang. They would riff off of each other during stories, smiling and laughing – their joy was contagious! What a gift these memories will always be.

  37. David S August 21, 2017 at 6:50 am #

    Thank You Lisa for an inspiring evening ,launching this wonderful video/CD and honoring “Cantor Avraham Immerman”,The Blind Chazzan.
    I am not originally from Cape Town ,but remember being introduced to him on 2 occasions ,and on the 2nd meeting he recognized my voice from our previous meeting.I will never forget Rabbi Jack Steinhorn’s words at Cantor Immerman’s funeral when he said “Today ! we are not burying a man, we are burying a TORAH.”

  38. Melissa August 21, 2017 at 12:30 am #

    He was a cousin of mine and every week he would come to Herzlia Highlands primary school. The highlight was when we were asked to walk him to from our classroom to the next. He would always ask us questions about ourselves. He knew everyone and Everybody loved him. I will always remember him!

  39. Elaine Miller August 20, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    Thank you Cantor Immerman. What a profoundly beautiful biography of a legend! We all need to continue his work by trying to live according to his final message: “There is no such thing as darkness, only light but you have to work for it!
    You have to use everything in your power to bring happiness to humanity!” Thank you Cantor for the memories(at Schoonder Street Shul), showing the world that anything is possible through belief and for the light!

  40. Beryl August 20, 2017 at 9:03 am #

    I remember the remarkable Cantor Immerman vividly. He lived opposite us in Rugley Road and his wife taught me piano. I have vivid memories of him leaving and returning to his flat always having a chat and joke with the neighbourhood kids. A gentler person you will never find. A truly wonderful human being.

  41. Rochelle Sher Becker August 19, 2017 at 11:45 pm #

    Adon Immerman was one of the most amazing men I have ever met. When I walked home from school I would sometimes see him along the way, and always said, Shalom Adon Immerman to which I got the immediate response, Shalom Rachel – fascinating that he knew by voice everyone’s name. He lived quite near me when I lived in the Gardens and often shopped in my father’s grocery store in Kloof Street. May his memory be a blessing.

  42. Lindi Rudnicki (nee Giger) August 19, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

    When I lived in CT as a child my family belonged to Mowbary/Onservatory Shul and he used to daven the Rosh Hashanah services and Kol Nidrei/Tom Kippur Services.

  43. Aubrey Krawitz August 19, 2017 at 8:03 pm #

    Cantor Immerman was heroic. I remember often seeing him walking from his home in Rugley Road down Buitenkant Street on his own when both he and I were walking down to the Talmud Torah in Hope Street. For a blind person to successfully master this challenge with nothing but his memory and a white stick was in itself a huge accomplishment. He used to visit each cheder classroom for about ten minutes to teach us Hebrew songs. Obviously he taught everything without needing prompting (as was the case with his precise knowledge of the Torah and all shul services). He had a positive outlook on life and an impish sense of humour – one of his favorite riddles was asked by him at the first lesson of each year at Talmud Torah “What is the biggest room in the world?”After many incorrect guesses by the class he would gleefully give us the answer:”Room for improvement ” What a unique man – we were lucky to have known him!

  44. Rob August 19, 2017 at 7:00 am #

    Wow Lisa what an amazing tribute you have created. Brought me to tears. It took me way back and I remembered little details about my interactions with him when we used to walk him to and from the Herzlia primary school lobby and our classroom. He always knew who I was, and used to tell me about our family, who was who and who he had taught. He had lovely hands! What a beautiful film. So very well done.

  45. Hessel Meilech August 2, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

    I remember him very well. He was a first cousin to my aunt.
    Whenever I saw him he quoted the date of my parents wedding.
    The other story is that I took him home in my car. He asked me what the difference between a jersey and a cardigan was..We were blesses to have such a pious great tsadek in our community.

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