Born 1903 Leipzig, Germany - died 1997, Jerusalem
The composer and conductor Shabtai Petrushka was born Siegmund Leo Petrushka. He grew up in an orthodox family and even before he started school he could read and write. From his early youth Petrushka was involved with music and even served as a young cantor at the daily prayers in his school. In Leipzig he studied piano, violoncello as well as theory. He was a member of the Blau-Weiss youth organization and between 1919 and 1922 sang in the Gewandhaus choir in Leipzig under the direction of Arthur Nikisch.
In 1923 he moved to Berlin intending to study mechanical engineering at the Technical College in Charlottenburg. He financed his studies by playing with the jazz ensemble "Sid Kay’s Fellows" which he founded together with a fellow student. He gave up the idea of becoming an engineer and devoted all his energy to the ensemble which, under his baton, accompanied various theatrical performances and earned recognition in its own right when it performed in Vienna, Budapest, Frankfurt, Barcelona and Munich. In 1933, the ensemble was disbanded and Petrushka, while playing with The Orchestra of the Jewish Cultural Society composed music for various plays (among them also for the Shalom Aleichem play ‘Amcha’. Using pseudonyms to disguise his being a Jew, he worked as music arranger for the Deutsche Gramophone Gesellschaft and for UFA films, Berlin.
In 1938, when he immigrated to Eretz-Israel (Palestine), Petrushka joined the Palestine Broadcasting Corp. Orchestra. From 1942 he served as conductor and arranger of the orchestra. He became active member of the Haganah in 1946. In the first decade of the independent State of Israel, Shabtai Petrushka served as Deputy director of the Music Programs Dept of Kol Israel and in 1958 was appointed Director of Music Section and held this post until his retirement. In the years 1969-1981, Petrushka was senior lecturer for orchestration and composition at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance, Jerusalem.
His compositions were published in Germany and Israel and they are clear indication of his attachment to the treasures of the music of the Jewish communities in the Diaspora - both in the East and in the West.