Date of Birth: October 9, 1915
Date of Death: April 22, 2014
Place of Birth: Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Lifelong music lover founded choirs in two cities
One of eight children born in Sudbury, Ontario to Eastern European parents, Malca Moses Kagan Muskin was known as a “completely self-made woman.”
In the nickel mining town of Sudbury, “Malcapuck” Moses – or “Pucky” – as she was known in childhood, played basketball, tennis, ran track, and studied the violin, graduating from Sudbury High School in 1933.
In 1939, she married Dr. Louis Kagan, shortly thereafter moving to Toronto, where she raised two children. Throughout the 1950s, she was active in the Toronto chapter of Hadassah, where she rose to the level of President.
The sudden death of Louis in 1960, when Malca was only 45, was a horrific blow. Nonetheless, as she did throughout her 98 years on earth, she grabbed life by the horns and forged forward. She allowed new love to enter her life, marrying Sidney Muskin and moving to a new city in a new country, Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she would live her next 42 years. In short order, her magnetic personality, energy, grace, and organizational skills led to leadership positions within the Grand Rapids Jewish community.
Malca’s lifelong love of music, especially Jewish music, was the catalyst to her founding Grand Rapids’ Shir Shalom Choir in 1985. Its inclusiveness cut across the Reform, Conservative, and non-Jewish communities as it welcomed anyone who shared a love of singing and music. She not only founded the choir, but also researched the music, sought out musical directors, organized the rehearsals, fiercely took attendance, scheduled performances throughout west Michigan, and established a music archive.
“Essentially, Malca was the nerve center and glue – a Jewish music balabusta, that held the choir together,” said son David Kagan.
In addition to founding the choir, Malca fed her passion for fashion working as a salesperson at Jacobson’s Department Store for more than 20 years. She also served as President of both the Grand Rapids chapter of Hadassah and the Ahavas Israel Sisterhood and, at age 84, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah.
Two years after Sidney passed in 2003, Malca moved across the country to Portland, Oregon to be near her daughter, Elaine. This major move, at age 90, barely slowed her down. Dismayed to learn that the independent living facility she was moving to did not have a community choir, she took charge once again, forming a new choir and replicating the passion and direction she exhibited in Grand Rapids.
Malca Moses Kagan Muskin died at age 98, a family matriarch described in her obituary as an “old world neo-Renaissance woman,” who, despite never going to college, was “learned, wise, continuously curious, graceful, engaged, dignified and oh-so-funny in her own ladylike way.”