Charlie's Bio

Charlie Bernhaut’s volunteer 'radio career' began in 1977 when he introduced the Friday morning pre-Shabbos segment on Larry Gordon's "Jewish and Hebrew Sound"at WFMU.

In 1980 he created "Two Hours of Jewish Soul Music" on WSOU – which ended in 1996. In recent years, under the auspices of Cantors World, he hosted a one hour cantorial program every Thursday at midnight via WSNR.

The first hour of the internet music program will be a mixture of Israeli, Yiddish, Chassidic, Sephardic, Choirs, Instrumental, Comedy, Historic, together with frequent brief interviews and commentary concerning Israel and the Jewish world. The second hour is solely 'chazzonus' - cantorial music. Via this hobby, Charlie is pleased to share his private collection of over 15,000 Jewish albums with listeners. There will be no commercials.

Lovers of 'chazzonus' recall that Charlie, together with his friend, Cantor Benny Rogoznitzky, formed "Cantors World" and helped to revive interest in traditional chazzonus.

BUT….HOW DID IT ALL COME ABOUT?

Some might say it was all through a long list of ‘coincidences’…. or accidents. Others claim that nothing happens by ‘accident’, that it was all b’shert. Either way, here’s how it happened.
Charlie grew up in the Weequahic section of Newark, New Jersey. It was the wonderful Jewish ghetto described in all of Philip Roth’s books. His ‘Jewish influence’ came primarily from two people: His ‘bubby’, Bessie Bernhaut, who lived on the first floor of the two family house where he grew up on Wolcott Terrace, and Rabbi Sholom Gordon who was his teacher at a Lubavitch cheder that he attended beginning in 1945 when he was 9 years old.

When he graduated Weequahic High School in 1954, he joined the army during the Korean War, spending most of his two years stationed in Tokyo. He then enrolled at Rutgers University where he got his B.A. majoring in philosophy.

After graduating from Rutgers Law School in 1962, Charlie decided to spend a year in Israel. On his return trip, he visited a friend in Paris whom he had met on a kibbutz. Steve was enrolled in a Parisian music school where he studied the French horn. One evening, Steve took Charlie to a private home to hear a recital and on the piano was an original Edison cylinder gramophone. Charlie was captivated by the machine and immediately on his return to New Jersey he visited the Edison museum in West Orange. That’s how he began his hobby of collecting gramaphones and Victrolas. His collection of two dozen machines was written up in the local papers. Over the years he received dozens of calls from people who had old Jewish recordings, offering to give or sell them as they had no machines on which to play them. He amassed hundreds of 78 rpm records of cantorial and Yiddish music, but had no interest in listening to the recordings.

In 1977 Charlie chaired an event featuring Simon Wiesenthal. Over 2,000 people attended. While at dinner with Wiesenthal, Simon told him that he had run out of money to track down Nazis. Charlie promised Wiesenthal that he would run a fund-raising dinner in his honor. Plans were made. It was September. Charlie was in his car on his way to work. Flipping the dials he heard Jewish music. It was a new program that had just begun at Upsala College – the ‘Jewish and Hebrew Sound’ hosted by Larry Gordon (Rabbi Sholom Gordon’s nephew). This was the forerunner to Nachum Segal’s “JM in the AM” at WFMU. Larry offered to make announcements for any events in the Jewish community. Charlie immediately contacted Larry and it was b’shert that Larry told him to come to the studio the next morning to discuss the forthcoming dinner honoring Simon Wiesenthal. After the interview that was held the next day, Charlie offered Larry all of his old ’78 rpm records to play on his show. He thought that people would get a ‘kick’ out of hearing the old recordings. Much to his surprise, Larry offered him 30 to 40 minutes every Friday morning if he would come to the studio to play the records. So Charlie ‘shlepped’ an old RCA Victrola to the studio. He cranked the spring for each recording and held the microphone next to the machine. And that was Charlie’s first introduction to chazzonus and Yiddish music.

In 1980 Charlie got his own show over WSOU at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. It was “Two Hours of Jewish Soul Music”. His private collection of 33 1/3 records and tapes numbered about 500 at the time. It grew to over 15,000 albums of Jewish music, including records, tapes and cd’s. In 1996 Charlie was unceremoniously ‘dismissed’ by Seton Hall because of comments that were made during an interview concerning Islam and its hatred towards Jews and infidels.

Beginning in 1992, Charlie produced four successful annual cantorial concerts that were held in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Several years later he met Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky of the Jewish Center in Manhattan. He encouraged and helped produce several successful cantorial concerts at the Jewish Center. In 2002 Charlie and Benny formed Cantors World, an organization dedicated to promoting interest in traditional cantorial music. Together they ran many very successful concerts and other events. For many years Charlie hosted a one hour midnight cantorial radio program. On March 16th, 2009 Charlie hosted his first internet radio program of ‘Two Hours of Jewish Soul’.

Charlie notes: “I’ve always viewed it as my responsibility to share my collection of Jewish recordings with others. In all the years of my involvement with radio and Cantors World (and now the internet program) I never received monetary compensation for my efforts. However, I received something much more meaningful and important – the satisfaction in knowing that I’ve ‘touched the souls’ of many people through the music. As for ‘chazzonus’, Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky and I take particular pride in knowing that we have played an important role, through Cantors World, in reviving interest in this unique aspect of our religion.”

An outspoken activist for Israel, for eight years Charlie co-hosted a weekly TV program, “Israel Update”, with Helen Freedman. The program featured interviews and commentary concerning issues facing Israel and the Jewish community.

Charlie has another hobby of collecting comedy recordings, which number over 1,000 albums. For the past 25 years he has been presenting “The Best of Jewish Comedy” featuring recordings of Jewish comedians such as Myron Cohen, Mickey Katz, Mal Z. Lawrence, Henny Youngman, and Betty Walker. Synagogue and other Jewish groups have had over an hour of non-stop laughter. Certainly, “laughter is the best medicine”. The comedy presentation has been part of a four session course that Charlie taught at NYU – also featuring sessions on ‘chazzonus’, Yiddish, and Israeli music.

Professionally, Charlie became a leading expert in supermarket site location research. He worked for Pathmark and Waldbaum’s for many years. He then went on to be a consultant for shopping center developers. And, more recently, together with his son, Sam, he has been a commercial real estate broker specializing in retail and bank locations in New Jersey.

Charlie can be reached via the contact us page.

Shalom. Happy listening!