“[One of the missions] of a Cantor is to lead in prayer. [S/He] does not stand before the Ark as an artist in isolation, trying to demonstrate his skill or to display vocal feats. [S/He] stands before the Ark not as an individual but with the congregation. [Her/His task] is to represent as well as to inspire a community. Within the synagogue, music is not an end in itself but a means of religious experience.”-A. J. Heschel, The Vocation of the Cantor
I would also add that within a synagogue, music is not an end to itself, but a means of religious experience and creating community. An expert Cantor releases their soul through their voice, into the congregation with the intention of elevating and inspiring each person towards prayer, engaging in a connection to God, and by doing so together, creating one whole community with God’s presence at its center.
Atlanta is welcoming two incredible Cantors into our midst in February. You have heard me talk and write about Cantor Barbara Ostfeld. Cantor Barbara Ostfeld, the first ordained woman cantor in Jewish history.
This Friday night, she will join me, and friends Cantor Barbara Margulis and our own Artie Gumer for an uplifting Shabbat called Cantors in Song. Israel Bonds will sponsor this musical Shabbat. Cantor Ostfeld will be available before and after services to chat, and introduce you to her beautiful memoir Catbird Barbi Prim.
The music continues with an Afternoon of Songs&Book Talk, Sunday February 9th at 4pm. The cantors of Greater Atlanta are excited to join Cantor Ostfeld at Temple Beth Tikvah in concert and she shares her journey growing up in the cantorate.
Can you imagine having the incredible courage at the age of 17 to apply for a profession that excluded women? Register HERE to experience Cantor Ostfeld’s incredible story through this beautiful afternoon of music!
A couple of years ago, I had the incredible honor of hosting my dear teacher, a true “cantor’s cantor” Hazzan Jack Mendelson for Shabbos services. “Jackie” is one of the world’s leading cantorial masters, and is one of our last remaining links to the Golden Age of the Cantorate. An age that spanned the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These chazanic masters blended beauty and vocal artistry into deep and inspirational prayer. Their music was literally “in the air”- and if you lived in Brooklyn at the time of the Koussevitzky brothers, you understand what I mean!
February 15th, at 8:00pm at our local Regal Perimeter Pointe, I will have the honor of introducing and moderating Cantor Mendelson and Filmmaker Erik Greenberg Anjou’s film “A Cantor’s Head” as a part of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. As of 2015, AJFF made history by becoming the largest Jewish film festival in the world, and it is my extreme privilege to be a tiny part of it! My first year as Cantor of TE, we studied the precursor to this new film. In “A Cantor’s Tale,” we followed Hazzan Mendelson through his journey to the cantorate. We experienced an in-depth voyage through Jackie’s cantorial influencers and inspirations and learned about his dedication to the heritage and history of Jewish music. In this next installment, we will have the opportunity to consider the future of Jewish sacred music; its meaning and its inspiration, and what its potential loss may mean in twenty-first century Judaism. Get your tickets here for this not to miss evening!
It takes tremendous bravery, courage, and vulnerability to share ones’ voice as a soul inspirer. It requires a blend of mastery, artistry and vocal prodigy with a center of humility and grace. When you are a cantor, you literally wear, or in our case, sing, your heart on your sleeve. Both Cantors Ostfeld and Mendelson are true soul inspirers.
I urge you not to miss these two incredible cantors! Come and hear their stories and their music; I know that they will move you and inspire you.
B’Shira u’vracha- in Song and Blessings,
Cantor Lauren Adesnik