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President's Blog: TKC Music, August 2023

As you likely know, TKC has been in search of a permanent musical accompanist solution for many months. At the outset of this search, I asked members and others that are knowledgeable about our temple and heavily involved in our music programming to participate in a committee to identify and help hire our next musical accompanist. The members of that amazing and hardworking committee, which is chaired by Eric Simon and Lori Dreffin, are Steve Best, Gigi Morton, Carolyn Figiel, Michelle Erste and, of course, Rabbi Holtz. These folks have endeavored to identify candidates and have spent many hours interviewing applicants trying to fill our open position. You have seen some of the fruits of their labor in two candidates who participated in Friday night services. Unfortunately, neither of those individuals worked out.

A little bit of background. For many years, Temple Kehillat Chaim followed the traditional clergy model and had a Rabbi and Cantor. In the early to mid 2010’s the trend in temples was to move away from a traditional Cantor and towards using musical accompanists/cantorial soloists. The Board at the time decided that it would pursue this trend for a number of reasons, and it split the role into two individuals – a musical accompanist for the religious school, Friday nights, B’nai Mitzvahs, and ordinary holidays, and a traditional Cantor just for the High Holidays. This model worked well for the first few years of the arrangement, but it became much more challenging once our musical accompanist Morgan Rubin left. As a result, we decided to unify the position into a single person. Unfortunately, though, we have been unable to find someone to lead our overall music program, run the adult choir all year, engage our students in the religious school and youth choir, and be present for and a participant in B’nai Mitzvahs.

Jewish music is a vital part of what we do at the Kehillah. The emotions – from serious to fun to meaningful memories – that are provoked by our music is real and important. Think about how you feel when our cellist plays “Kol Nidre” at Yom Kippur, when you attend services and the congregation sings the Amidah in unison, or when our youth loudly sings (and sometimes dances to) camp-style prayers that they learned at Coleman or Barney. For this reason, one of my major goals this year is to re-solidify our music at TKC.

In light of our lack of success identifying and hiring a musical accompanist, the search committee has been authorized to open the search to candidates that are ordained Cantors. Although this will require a more involved process, I think it is in the best interest of our temple to have someone at the helm of TKC’s music programming that creates a consistency through our religious school, in our services, and at the High Holidays. I further expect this person to become an intricate part of the fabric of our Kehillah.

To be sure, the hiring of a part-time, ordained Cantor will be a difficult thing to do, and we will continue to consider other musical accompanists if they apply. Further, hiring an ordained Cantor, even part time, will further test the limits of our budget and will require some fund raising to ensure its success. So, be on the lookout for a call from members of the board for your participation. But, if we are able to identify the right candidate that is an ordained Cantor, we think it will be the best thing for the long-term success of our temple. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or comments.

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