When I was about 7 years old, I attended synagogue for the first time. I watched my oldest cousin become Bar Mitzvah and this strange feeling came over me. Somehow, I just knew I had to be on that bimah! For the next two years, I nagged and begged my Mom to send me to a religious school. My Mom was single with two kids, working and going to school full-time, so planning my religious education was no easy feat. Finally, I got my wish and we joined a conservative congregation. I relished learning about my Jewish history, studying Hebrew, and singing all of the prayers.
Have you ever heard of a Cantor who cannot hear without hearing aids? For most of my early life, my world of sound was one of great confusion. It took time to reach a diagnosis and a number of surgeries to try to correct. Ultimately, hearing aids were the best option. Miraculously, I sang through all of it. No one quite knows how I sang up such a storm, or how I was able to match pitch, but I believe that something greater than myself has been at work through that journey.
At 11 years old, I joined the “Adult Choir” and have been singing Jewish music ever since. When I sing Jewish music, teach, or study text, I feel a sense of holiness surround me. I feel connected to a place of meaning and spirituality with God at the center. Living a Jewish life, and serving the Jewish community is my life’s passion. I share this amazing Jewish journey with my husband, Moshe. His support and belief in this important work inspire me daily.
What drew you to the cantorate?
I soaked up every opportunity to sing everywhere, including my synagogue, but did not realize I was drawn to the cantorate. I was focused on cultivating my voice; working towards a career as an opera singer. As a young “starving artist” my career was more audition than gigs. Moreover, I felt that something was missing in my life, though I wasn’t sure what it was. After some soul searching, I began teaching at a reform synagogue in the San Fernando Valley, just outside of L.A. When I watched my first student become Bar Mitzvah, I saw a change wash over him, and a sense of accomplishment fill him. It was inspiring. The service ended, his grandmother turned to me and said: “you have a beautiful voice, why are you not a cantor?” That moment, my journey shifted towards my true calling, the cantorate. I am dedicated to creating sacred relationships, and to using my voice as a vessel to help others find their pathways to Judaism.
What is the spiritual background of your early years?
I grew up in a family centered in Jewish holidays and celebration. We were very connected with a conservative synagogue and an active Chavurah. My most cherished memories are of family celebrations. Over big Shabbos dinners, my Mom would share stories of my grandmother and great aunt who used to grind their own horseradish with an old food mill. I remember Passover Seders listening to my grandfather daven the entire Haggadah in Hebrew. On Chanukah, there were latkes, lights and my extended family dressing up to re-enact the story of Chanukah. I carry those holy moments, the smells, the joy of family connection and Jewish celebration into the work I do daily. I spent my first year of seminary living in Israel, and I deepened my relationships with my great aunts and uncles who made Aliyah and grew their families in Israel; dedicated to the lifestyle of traditional Judaism. One day, my great Aunt Shirley z’l, the impetus for all things musical in my family, showed me a faded black and white picture of several Chassidic men dressed in traditional garb. She said to me “these are cousins of yours, they made Aliyah to Israel from Lithuania in the 1800’s and they are all Cantors!” What I especially treasure about my early spiritual background is that sense of connection to my family and my heritage.
What is your academic background?
A Los Angeles “valley girl,” I graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Music in Opera. I held residences with Repertory Opera and Contemporary Opera Companies of Los Angeles. I became ordained at HUC-JIR in New York in 2013 and my thesis/recital focused on “Lament as a Doorway to Hope.”
I am an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction. You will often see me running my way through Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, or playing catch in the dog park with Moshe and our poodle, Wally.