Michail Gnessin (1883-1957) came from the family of a rabbi. His three sisters founded a music institute in Moscow, which still exists under the name "Gnesin-Academy of Music". Gnesin himself taught composition there. Among his students were Aram Chatschaturjan and Tichon Chrennikow.
In 1921 Gnessin traveled to Palestine, where he remained for almost one year. He lived there like a hermit in a remote guest house between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There where he composed his opera "Abraham's youth" based on old talmudic legends - the first Jewish national opera. This work was a kind of credo in which he answered the question about his artistic and human identity.
In the mid 1920s Gnessin became chairman of the Society for Jewish Music in Moscow. When the political pressure increased, Gnesin fought for the society's continued existence. He knew that he would put himself in mortal danger, if he defended himself against the discriminations against Jewish music. While masses of people were vanishing in Gulags, he still had the courage to support the freedom of art. After the society was forced to discontinue its work in 1930 and Jewish music was no longer allowed to exist in Russia, Gnessin offered passive resistance - he did not compose at all for a number of years