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the emissary of the people

05/27/2021 08:21:17 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Permit me to tell you about an amazing group of colleagues that I am very fond of – Cantors. This week I have been attending a virtual conference, which is difficult under any set of circumstances, but even more difficult when your colleagues live around the world. What should be the starting time for an event? If we regularly hold evening concerts at 7:00PM, does that not exclude Israeli colleagues? If we daven together at 7:30AM, does that not exclude California colleagues? What will happen to the rich choral concerts that are a regular feature of our conferences, replete with various sized instrumental groups?

Having observed quite a bit through postings during the pandemic, to learn from and about, to share with others, or just to be moved, I am so proud of the rapid pivot that my cantorial colleagues made. We quickly learned that a mere laptop or even desktop computer was insufficient for quality sound production (if we did not know so already) which necessitated the acquisition of a good USB microphone, that specialized lighting would have to be purchased, and green screens also became a necessity. All of us dove quickly and deeply into the opportunities and challenges of live-streaming: should I live-stream from home or the synagogue; should I use an Ethernet cable or is the Wi-Fi signal strong enough; how many cameras; where can I find people whom I can afford to do this. Judging by the results that I have witnessed over the past year, I think that Cantors responded splendidly.

Over time many mastered how to hold virtual choir rehearsals and even create magnificent and moving videos. I had the privilege of participating in two of them through the Cantors Assembly, my professional organization. To see them, and much more, I encourage you to check out our newly-designed website at

I observed the following presentations during the year: various times for tots, including short concerts before bedtime; fireside concerts during the winter; sing-a-longs; a wide range of religious services; pastoral care under the most challenging circumstances possible; minimal attendance funerals that were live-streamed or recorded and shared; virtual Passover Sedarim; virtual Purim services with a shpiel; a wide-range of Chanukah activities; beautiful and moving High Holy services that were a mix of pre-recorded and live elements.

This week at the conference I have viewed:  a concert of Jewish music from across the globe; hazzanut (the art of the Hazzan) wrapped in a warm Yiddish blanket; small group workshops on beginning guitar, conducting, drumming, hazzanut coaching, Hebrew art song, professional coaching, and Tot 101; the South African Cantorial Choral tradition; a concert given by newly-ordained Cantors from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America; an incredible lecture entitled “Shir-El: A God-Wrestler’s Journey Through Song”; a recorded evening service by the late master Cantor Moshe Taube, z”l; new musical publications; the Conservative Movement in the 21st Century; technology classes on Facebook basics, teaching students, the basics of sound and video editing, optimizing Zoom, and virtual choir nuts and bolts; new music for the 21st Century. Just to name a few.

The role of a professional Cantor is alive, well and thriving in synagogues across the globe. As in-person services slowly begin to resume, it is the voice of the Cantor who serves as the voice of the people, welcoming us back to a place that we have been absent from for so long, inviting us to sing along and pour out our hearts to the Holy One who hears our prayers. May all of us be privileged to pray in a congregation with a Cantor, the Shaliach Tzibur, the emissary of the congregation.

Wed, June 23 2021 13 Tammuz 5781