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Ya’akov Atik - Niggun


Ya'akov Atik“I am the youngest of four children. I was the youngest and the only one born in New York; the others were born in Palestine, before it became Israel.

My mother was born in the Old City of Jerusalem, although she was first generation; her parents were from Europe – I don’t know exactly where but they were both Ashkenazi. My father was from a Chassidic family and on Shabbat he dressed in black. The family had been in Palestine for four generations. They lived in Safad in the Galilee, although at some point my grandfather, like many poor people, went down from Safad to Jerusalem. He died when my father was only four years old. We don’t even know where the name Atik comes from.

During the 'thirties, before I was born, my father went to the States a lot. He was what was known as a meshulach - he collected money for orphanages and other charities. In those days America was seen as the Goldeneh Medina! When he lived in New York he was involved in kosher slaughter – his job was putting tags on the animals to indicate that they’d been washed.

Ya'akov Atik's father, Yosef. c1950My father had a very good voice. He used to be a Ba’al Tefillah for Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. He was the ‘warm up man’ for the Musaf chazzan! He would do Shacharit and the big, famous chazzan would do Musaf. My father was very earnest and very modest. I always associated the prayer “Hineni he’ani mi ma’at” - I am a poor and humble person - with him, he so meant it; you knew you were well represented!

On Shabbat we’d all get together to sing - my brothers and sister used to sing too but not my mother - and we did harmonies. We’d all be crying! It was one of the few times my father seemed present; he was a very absent father, very insular, very isolated, not a happy man. You didn’t get to know him, except on Friday night

It’s not clear to me where these Niggunim come from. I’ve heard that a couple of brothers called the Pester brothers, or something like, that wrote them – I don’t know if it’s true or not. My sister recently told me that she thinks they were originally sung in the street with violin accompaniment to welcome in Shabbat.”

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