2013 Cantorial Ordainees
Following are personal statements of the 2013 cantorial ordainees:
Kevin Andrew Margolius
If there is one defining moment that first set me on the path to becoming a cantor, it was Rosh HaShanah 5757 (1996), after silent prayer in the evening service. A harp began playing Bonia Shur’s Yih’yu L’ratzon, softly bringing the congregation out of personal, private meditation. Then the soprano joined in, singing the haunting melody, followed by the choir. The moment I got home I tried to re-create what I could remember on the piano. In many ways, this musical moment of my past defines what it is to be a "shaliach tzibbur," addressing one of the central issues of modern t’fillah: navigating between individual, private worship and the prayers of a congregation together. Over the past year, as my community made the transition to a new siddur, these issues became even more apparent. Some in the community prayed best in English and in unison, and some, responsively. Some wanted to sing along with melodies from their childhood; others were searching for musical contemplative moments that invited them to listen. As for me, I pray best not with my voice alone, but with my fingers on the piano or guitar. Some of my students pray with drums or saxophones. And so it seemed like everyone in the room prayed differently! What a wonderful opportunity we had to share and explore the diverse modes of Jewish expression. I am looking forward to continuing this with my new community in Connecticut.
Melissa Beth Puius
I am in the middle of a packed sanctuary. I feel something rise within me, responding to the energy in the room. This is how I most comfortably and sincerely offer my personal prayers: as a "shaliach tzibbur," an emissary of my peers. Think of me as a little loop of palm frond, holding a lulav together. The next morning, my classroom is in noisy disarray as we rearrange the desks and chairs. The students have just explained to me how the “buddy system” works at the camp pool, and I have told them about the Jewish buddy system, "chevruta." Now, we’re breaking off into pairs to list how studying Torah with a chevruta is like swimming with a buddy. As they dive in, I walk around the room, checking in with each pair. Think of me as an ark, keeping the future afloat. Later that day, the main sanctuary is empty, except for me and the bat-mitzvah student. We have just taken digital photos of her aliyah from the actual Torah she’ll be using, and I am emailing them to her from my phone. We’re about to do a quick relaxation exercise, and then a mental rehearsal of the Torah service. The next student will be here in ten minutes. Think of me as a shamas, lighting each candle in turn. My roles are those of avodah, of service. Think of me as all these things, and you will see: I am a cantor.
Jeri Nagler Robins
When I first stepped foot on the Hebrew College campus in May 2007, I was not entirely sure where my path was going to take me. Immersing myself in Hebrew and then taking a couple of courses, I wanted more with each subsequent class — more understanding of Jewish texts and liturgy, more nusach and the systems of cantillation, more history and philosophy. In addition, I feel very blessed to have found a home in the School of Education, where I have taken to heart the theory and practices taught in the classroom and applied them in both religious-school and overnight-camp settings. As a cantor and recipient of a master’s degree in Jewish education, it is a privilege to work in congregational life to share my passion for Judaism, to help people of all ages make meaning and to support the creation of authentic worship experiences that bring us closer to God and each other. I wake up each day grateful for the opportunity to make music and to engage with our faith. I am looking forward to joining Temple Beth Shalom in Peabody, Mass., as its cantor and director of education. I have not taken this journey alone, and I wish to thank my husband of 25 years, Steve; our children, Corey and Jordan; our parents, family and friends, for their unending love; my teachers, for their patience and training, both in and out of the classroom; and my colleagues, who have taken these steps with me. Congratulations to the other ordainees, cantors Wendy Siegel, Melissa Puius and Kevin Margolius. May we all go from strength to strength.
Wendy J. Siegel
How is it possible that singing with a congregation is less daunting to me than putting words to paper? Songs just float out there and are momentary expressions, whereas words on paper are set for all time — or until they are shredded. Although fleeting, music has such force and the ability to move us emotionally, to remind us of people, things and places we’ve known, to bring people together and create community. It has awesome power. As a cantor, I hope to inspire and engage my future congregants with this power to create community, spirituality and self-awareness; comfort them in their times of need; and uplift them at all times. In mentioning uplifting, I cannot write this statement without adding my thanks to those who have lifted me up so that I could reach this day of ordination: my amazing and supportive parents, Sybil and Ron Saloman; my encouraging son, Matthew, and his wife, Anna; my best friend and sister, Andrea Young; my big brother, Larry Saloman, for the lunches; my brother Peter Saloman, for the cellphone; Aunt Ruth Dorfman and cousins Leah and Karen Doryoseph; my biggest cheerleader, Bob Bills; my dear friends Rosemary White and Iris Bloom; my mentor, Rav-Hazzan Scott Sokol; my many teachers at Hebrew College, AJR and Pardes in Jerusalem; and my wonderful colleague and friend Cantor Jeri Robins. I could not have made it to this day without each and every one of you! I am honored that you were all a part of my amazing journey to the cantorate. Todah rabbah! Thank you!
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