For me, it was a first. Never before did I have the opportunity, as president of Hebrew College, to partner with an alumnus on a synagogue pulpit. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I served as a Ba’al Tefila, a leader of synagogue prayers, at Temple Reyim in Newton. Rabbi Daniel Berman, a 2010 graduate of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School, was appointed the new rabbi at Temple Reyim just this past summer.
I was hired as a High Holy Days cantor even before the synagogue chose a new rabbi, and I had some trepidation not knowing if the congregation would find an appropriate candidate before the holidays. Of course, I offered to help in a rabbinic capacity if needed, but I was thrilled that Rabbi Berman and Temple Reyim found each other. I knew the congregation would be in good rabbinic hands, and I could focus on the music and liturgy.
I enjoy singing and leading services, especially with the rich musical tradition of the High Holy Days. For me, interpreting the liturgy as a prayer leader is often as meaningful as sharing Jewish insights and Torah interpretations. In many ways, I am a cantor wannabe. The School of Jewish Music at Hebrew College fills our halls with liturgical melodies that resonate in my soul. Just last week at our Hebrew College convocation (hakhel), I was privileged to sing with the Hebrew College choir, Kol Arev. We sang a choral piece composed by a rabbinical student and arranged for chorus by cantorial students from the School of Jewish Music. Beginning the academic and Jewish year with joyous song is uplifting, and helping to lead the songs and music of the High Holy Days in a synagogue with a new, Hebrew College rabbi made my experience of this holy period in the year particularly meaningful.
To be present on the bima when this bright, sensitive and talented rabbi introduced himself to the broader congregational community was a special blessing. Rabbi Berman spoke with deep appreciation of his years of Jewish study at Hebrew College and the mentors who guided his religious development as he prepared to be a rabbi. He reflected on family, teachers, colleagues and former clients (he was an attorney before becoming a rabbi) who taught him important lessons that he now applies to his role as a congregational rabbi.
The mutual warmth and respect that I witnessed in that synagogue gave me a great sense of satisfaction as the president of Hebrew College. Rabbi Berman, Temple Reyim and its new president, Andy Offit (Rabbi Suzanne Offit, Andy’s wife, is also a Hebrew College Rabbinical School alumna), have great potential to form a partnership that will cultivate a creative and dynamic community. Hebrew College will continue to support Rabbi Berman and the congregation as we work with our other alumni who have become rabbis, cantors, educators and lay leaders in the sacred task of revitalizing and re-imagining Jewish life.