Eliyahu Schleifer was born in Jerusalem in 1939. As child he studied in "Cheder" and at the Yeshivah "Etz Chaim", then at "Tachkemony" school and the Hebrew University High School. He began his musical career as a Meshorer (Choirboy) and Junior Cantor at the "Shirat Yisrael" Institute, where he studied Hazzanut with the master of cantorial art, Cantor Zalman Rivlin. Concurrently he studied violin and French horn at the Jerusalem New Conservatory of Music. He served as musician at the Israeli Army Band and Symphony and after his discharge from the army he continued his musical studies at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem, and concurrently studied Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah at the Hebrew University.
During the years 1964-67 he served as assistant of the ethnomusicologist, Dr. Edith Gerson-Kiwi, researching the music of the Jewish communities of Israel. He then continued his academic studied in music history and theory at the University of Chicago, where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in musicology. During his sojourn in Chicago, he served as Cantor at the Conservative synagogue South Side Hebrew Congregation there. Returning to Israel in 1976, he served as lecturer at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem and senior lecturer in the Department of Musicology at Tel Aviv University. In his public capacity as musicologist he served a number of times as judge in the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Musical Composition
and was Chairman of the Israeli Musicological Society. In 1987 he was appointed Associate Professor of Sacred Music and Director of Cantorial Studies at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Jerusalem.
In 2010 he retired and he now continues his research projects on Ashkenazi synagogue music at the Israel National Library and the Jewish Music Research Center of the Hebrew University. He also serves as academic adviser and Director of the Cantorial School of Abraham Geiger Rabbinic College in Berlin. Prof. Eliyahu Schleifer is married to the pianist Aya Schleifer and they have two sons, Doron and Uri, who are also musicians.
Photo: Janina Wurbs