In Conservative and Reform movements, more song-leading and a blurring line between chazzan and rabbi.
Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Md., is a classic suburban Conservative synagogue, boasting a membership of 1,100 households and such varied programming as a Yiddish film festival, tallit-making workshops and an adult education institute. A sprawling building, newly enlarged, contains all this bustling activity.
Large congregations like Beth El offer much, yet they sometimes suffer from a reputation for lackluster services that contrasts with their crowded preschools and the abundant activities on offer.
Jack Mendelson remembers well the words of his principal teacher, the great cantor Israel Alter.
“He would always say, ‘Hazonos iz improvizatya,’ hazanut is improvisation,” Mendelson, himself a great cantor today, recalls with a laugh. “All the really great ones would go off on the pulpit, and the cantors who were really musically trained would improvise on the concert stage as well.”
Although she was deeply involved in Jewish life, Sandy Cahn didn’t consider herself a shul person.
“I did not ever go to synagogue, even though I had a strong Jewish background,” says Cahn, who has been a lay leader of numerous communal organizations.
Recently, following a tragedy in her life, she began attending Shabbat services at the New York Synagogue “to find some solace.”
Pinball policies in response to Sharon-Arafat spat
James D. Besser
It was an almost impossible political challenge: This week Jewish leaders were trying to put a positive spin on increasingly panicky, inconsistent U.S. efforts to end an Israeli-Palestinian crisis that continues to spin out of control.
The pinball policies bounced from the harshest-ever condemnations of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to fierce new pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
In the old-news-presented-as-new department, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) is beside itself with joy because now, officially, there isn’t a single Jewish Republican in the Senate – the first time, the group notes, since 1957, when New York’s Jacob Javits was sworn in (read the group’s blog post here),