A Timely Reminder of the Power of Music
10/20/10
Special to the Jewish Week
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Just a few evenings ago, my synagogue in Forest Hills formally installed Hazzan Henry Rosenblum as its new Cantor. Having just concluded a lengthy tenure as the Dean of the H. L. Miller School for Cantorial Music at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Hazzan Rosenblum is both a friend and a mentor to countless young Hazzanim, and a precious colleague to those who have served as Cantors for many years.

The proof of the esteem in which Hazzan Rosenblum is held by his colleagues was evident on Sunday night, when ten of his dearest friends- each a cantorial superstar is his/her own right- came to Forest Hills to celebrate his installation in the only truly appropriate way- with music, of course. Along with a brief installation ceremony and a few comments by our synagogue’s leadership and me, the program was all music.

I am no stranger to the world of serious Jewish music. In fact, along with Hazzan Rosenblum and many others, I will be singing in Carnegie Hall on Sunday afternoon, October 31, as part of the fiftieth anniversary concert of the Zamir Chorale. I understand and appreciate how great music can carry you away to another place entirely, and I have enormous respect for that.

But I dare say that when people walked into our sanctuary on Sunday evening and were handed a program featuring eleven Hazzanim singing, there were more than a few of them who cringed inside- just like they would if they saw that there were ten Rabbis speaking. I’ve often joked with my wife that I already know what should be inscribed on my headstone. Date of birth, date of death, names in Hebrew and English, and an inscription reading “He tried to be brief.” Very few people enjoy being imprisoned in their synagogues by either Rabbis or Cantors going on much too long. Eleven cantors? Could it maybe be too much of a good thing?

Well, maybe it could- but in the most dramatic and remarkable way possible, it wasn’t. From classical Hazzanut to Broadway and opera, one Cantor after another just blew people away with the power and the glory of his or her artistry. Some pieces were whimsical, others dramatic… it really didn’t matter. No matter what the nature of the music was, we were treated to a performance that left everyone in attendance feeling cheated because there wasn’t an encore! I, too, felt that it was difficult to get out of my seat afterwards, the way I feel when a performance in a theatre or concert hall has just overwhelmed me. What an evening of music! And the quality of the music, which was all tribute to our new Hazzan, served also to make the evening the ultimate “welcome to our community” party for him. By evening’s end, it felt as if Hazzan Rosenblum had been in our community for years. What an amazingly successful program!

Of course, my joy at this success is primarily rooted in Hazzan Rosenblum’s warm and memorable introduction to his new position. Sometimes programs succeed beyond your wildest expectations, and it’s not always possible to predict when that will happen. But I am completely sure that this particular program owes its success to the power of great music, and the artists who bring it to us, to carry us away to a much higher and more exalted state of being than merely seats in an auditorium of sanctuary.

That’s what happened in our synagogue last Sunday night. I wish it on all of us!
 

 Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is spiritual leader of The Forest Hills Jewish Center, a Conservative congregation

Last Update:

10/28/2010 - 00:17

Comments

I sure wish I had been there. What a glorious night for a very deserving cantor.
Priviliged to honor Hazzan Rosenblum, here is the program with his participating colleagues: Cantor Erno Grosz- Star Spangled Banner and Hatikva Cantor Faith Steinsnyder and Cantor David Perper – Zog Zhe Rebbenu Cantor Marina Shemesh – Amen Shem Nora Hazzan Raphael Frieder – Vos Iz Gevor’n Fun Main Shtetele Cantor Jacob Mendelson - Chazzones Cantor Fredda Mendelson – Habanera Cantor David Perper - Maria Hazzan Alisa Pomerantz-Boro - Modim Cantor Faith Steinsnyder - O Mio Babbino Caro Cantor Magda Fishman – R’tze Hazzan David Propis and Hazzan Alisa Pomerantz-Boro – The Prayer Cantor Magda Fishman and Hazzan Raphael Frieder – Sim Shalom Cantor Fredda Mendelson and Cantor Jacob Mendelson – Adon Olam Hazzan Nancy Abramson and Hazzan Henry Rosenblum – Lu Yehi Cantor Marina Shemesh and Hazzan Henry Rosenblum – Havein Yakir Li Hazzan David Propis and Hazzan Henry Rosenblum – Rachem Na The Ensemble – Ma Tovu Ms. Joyce Rosenzweig, Accompanist
Cantor Henry was at our Shul recently and was very much appreciated. I hope that through his abilities to make music that he will be able to bring in young people to your Synagogue. I also hope that he will keep in mind what the Clergy from BJ always say " if you don't like touchy feely go to a cemetery". They also say that "everyone is seeking " and "if you don't touch people's hearts that they won't join". In my mind people need to sing along as well as feel the music in their hearts. Hopefully Henry will face the congregation and connect with everyone in the Shul and make them feel holy.
Cantor Rosenblum already does just what you suggest-touch hearts, minds and souls through his music, generosity and warm spirit. He truly is a mensch who knows how to lead from the pulpit, lead through his actions and engage the congregation as a community. Our family feels an immediate connection to him and are excited about the renewed spirit we believe he already brings to the shul. And most important -we are singing along with him.

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