SSMAA NEWS - A GLIMPSE AT OUR WORK...
...for SSM alumni
- We host ShirFun social events.
- We present webinars.
- We plan the alumni breakfast at the ACC convention.
- We recommend Honorary Doctorate candidates to the HUC-JIR Committee on Honors.
- We support your use of the Jewish Studies Portal.
- We help publicize HUC’s continuing education opportunities available to you.
- As part of the Council of Alumni Associations, we helped to implement the creation of a hard copy Alumni Directory.
...for SSM students
- We sponsor a lunch for graduating seniors.
- We host an event for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students.
- Together with the Rabbinical Alumni Association and the NY School of Education Alumni Association, we co-host a cocktail party during orientation week for all incoming second year HUC students.
- We have created a booklet filled with practical tips about New York for incoming 2nd year SSM students.
- We assist SSM staff in developing a madrich program for students.
- We buddy up NY students with Year-In-Israel students via skype and email.
- We give the Year-in-Israel students the Ish Matzliach Tikkun.
...for the SSM and HUC-JIR
- We work closely with HUC’s admissions/recruitment staff, assisting in events like HUC On the Road, and in buddying up alumni with prospective SSM students.
- We make presentations at Hava Nashira, the Jewish Choral Festival and other venues.
- We recommend alumni to be recruitment ambassadors for the SSM and HUC-JIR.
- We are creating a recruitment resource guide for our ambassadors.
Finally, we have launched Invest-in-a-Student, a campaign to raise money for SSM scholarships, which has thus far raised over $45,000.
SAW YOU AT THE ALUMNI BREAKFAST
By Jennifer Bern-Vogel (with Marla Goldberg)
Have you been to any of your class reunions lately? Unless you attended a largely Jewish school like Brandeis, you’ll probably find, as have I, that most reunions are scheduled around Homecoming, right in the middle of the High Holy Days in September. So at ACC conventions, a serving of an SSM Alumni Association breakfast ‘reunion’ can help get you in the spirit of serving our Alma Mater (or ‘Eema’)!
This past year’s breakfast consisted of a buffet of mini vegetable knishes, fruit and pastries, including beignets (hey, it was Memphis – something’s gotta be fried…) providing post-daveners sustenance to celebrate some of our devoted and hard-working colleagues. SSMAA Leadership included incoming Chair Lee Coopersmith and outgoing Chair, Claire Franco. Claire welcomed the attendees and began by honoring this year’s Honorary Doctorate recipients, the Class of 1985. (I’m sure the rest of us were praying that we can hang in there until we receive ours!) Claire also welcomed the recently invested Cantors as we applauded the Class of 2010. Mazel tov to the classes of 1985 and 2010!
In other business, Claire encouraged everyone to fill out an Invest-in-a-Student pledge form. $23,000 toward SSM student scholarships was pledged that morning! David Berger reported that the Recruitment Working Group is coordinating with the HUC staff in recruitment of students. SSM Director, Bruce Ruben, spoke to us about developments at the SSM and his hopes for the future. Kerith Spencer-Shapiro led a ceremony of appreciation for Claire for her great leadership. Following Claire’s response, she introduced incoming Chair, Lee Coopersmith.
The highpoint of the breakfast meeting was the ceremony honoring Benjie-Ellen-Schiller. After a warm introduction by Adelle Nicholson, Tanya Greenblatt sang One Generation accompanied by Dr. Alan Mason, and then all in attendance sang Benjie’s Hal’luhu. The tribute continued with special memories and anecdotes offered by various people throughout the room. Rosalie Boxt offered a particularly heartfelt and serious tribute to her mentor. A lovely piece of artwork was presented to Benjie by Marla Goldberg on behalf of the SSMAA. Benjie was visibly overcome with gratitude and emotion.
The breakfast concluded on an exuberant note, as Lee invited the latest investees to stand and lead the Birkat Hamazon.
HUC at HAVA NASHIRA
By Jennifer Strauss-Klein
Photo of HUC alumni, faculty, and students who participated in May 2010 Hava Nashira - Fourth Row: Cantor Jeff Klepper, Student Rabbi Yoni Regev, Rabbi Ken Chasen, Cantor Leon Sher, Rabbi Larry Milder, Rabbi Noam Katz, Cantor Ross Wolman, Cantor Arik Luck, Jay Rappaport (NYSOE). Third Row: Cantor David Goldstein, Cantor Sarah Sager, Rabbi Audrey Pollack, Cantor Rosalie Boxt, Cantor Tracey Scher, Merri Arian-faculty, Debbie Friedman, z”l-faculty, Cantor Zoe Jacobs, Cantor Rollin Simmons, Cantor Billy Tiep. Second Row: Cantor Aviva Katzman, Cantor Diane Yomtov, Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Cantor Jennifer Frost. First Row: Rabbi Helayne Shalhevet, Rabbi Jaime Shalhevet, Cantor Jennifer Strauss-Klein, Student Rabbi Lara Pullan Regev, Student Rabbi Andrew Terkel, Cantor Lisa Arbisser
Last June I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Hava Nashira, the URJ’s annual songleading and music workshop at OSRUI in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. I had heard about Hava Nashira for years, from various colleagues, cantorial and non-cantorial alike. Now, having gone myself, I can’t recommend this program highly enough. I found it to be the single most rewarding conference or workshop I’ve ever attended.
Professionally speaking, there are numerous options for intensives and electives. We had the opportunity to learn from and with some of the best people in the business. Josh Nelson, Craig Taubman, Debbie Friedman z”l, Shira Kline, Dan Nichols, and the URJ camp songleaders were among the service leaders and faculty, so we encounter a plethora of new musical settings of prayers and the most up-to-date repertoire in the Reform Movement. These opportunities alone would have made it worthwhile—what I didn’t expect was the personal spirituality boost! The boundless enthusiasm of all the participants is contagious, and the services are some of the most spiritually uplifting and effective I’ve experienced. And you need not be a "proficient" guitarist - I am not, and I never once felt as though I had lost out as a result.
Let me say a word about representation and recruitment. The topic of the role of cantorial soloists and camp songleaders in Jewish musical life is a touchy one for many cantors. Regardless of how you feel about the subject, Hava Nashira provides an opportunity for cantors to share our gifts and our knowledge with those who in large part are setting the tone of contemporary popular Jewish music. The fact that I was there as a cantor and could advocate for HUC and the cantorate was very significant. Everyone I encountered—literally without exception—was thrilled to see cantors represented in larger numbers than ever before. I also had the opportunity to speak formally and informally with a number of talented soloists and songleaders about my experiences as a cantorial student at HUC and a recently invested cantor. After our conversations, many learned more about the cantorate as a potential career path or realized that they could or did meet the criteria for applying to cantorial school.
For these reasons, I can’t emphasize how important it is that we as cantors are attending workshops like these. Pariticipating in Hava Nashira is the ideal opportunity to demonstrate that we in the cantorate are relevant to Jewish musical life today, and that we can—and should—have a greater influence on the direction of Jewish music beyond our own pulpits.
I strongly encourage you all to go to the Hava Nashira website and check it out for yourselves. The address is:
The program fills up quickly, so be sure to sign up as soon as registration opens in March 2011.
I hope to see many of you at Hava Nashira this year!
HUC ON THE ROAD...
CHICAGO - by Ross Wolman
HUC on the Road: Chicago was a great success. The day was filled with programs and a few opportunities for informal schmoozing. The morning featured a lesson for area educators taught by Dr. Michael Zeldin. In the afternoon session Dr. Sam Joseph taught about effective leadership to alumni and possible future students.
The program was exciting and dynamic. Conversations were upbeat and positive. I had the opportunity to have had lunch with two potential SSM students. They asked many questions and were grateful for the opportunity for some one-on-one time with a recent graduate.
These programs will continue to draw in candidates from our urban centers. I look forward to participating in more HUC on the Road events in Chicago in the coming years.
MIAMI - by Adelle Nicholson
Drs. Michael Marmur and Bruce Ruben were featured at HUC on the Road Miami, hosted by Cantor Rachelle Nelson and Temple Beth Am. Rabbinic, Para-Rabbinic, Cantorial, Communal Service and Education alumni were represented.
In the morning, we studied a Babylonian Talmud teaching about the Alef-Beit with Dr. Marmur, and learned about the news of the College-Institute. Dr. Marmur stressed that alumni are HUC’s best recruiters - we know the programs and what it takes to succeed at HUC and in our respective professions. He has asked us to think about potential recruits, and to represent HUC to our congregations, at conferences and on the web. There is also an alumni/applicant mentor program - if you are interested in mentoring an applicant through the application process, please contact Bruce Ruben.
In the afternoon, Dr. Marmur met with some young Jewish professionals associated with the Federation who work with teens in congregations and for the Board of Education. He did a text study with them and explored some of the issues they face in their work. Some of them are prospective HUC candidates.
Dr. Ruben taught another group, including SSM alumni, about the evolution of the cantorate from colonial times to the present, emphasizing the influence of Solomon Sulzer in American Reform Judaism and the establishment and history of the SSM. He concluded his session with a description of the new SSM curriculum.
It was a welcome day of learning and reconnecting, an oasis during the week of our hectic professional lives
COCKTAIL PARTY FOR 2ND YEAR STUDENTS
By Joanna Alexander
Last August, the SSMAA, Rabbinic Alumni Association and NY School of Education Alumni Association planned a joint event to welcome students returning from Israel, and entering the NY school. We held a cocktail hour after orientation to give the students a chance to relax and socialize with their fellow alumni across the schools, as well as get to know us - Cantor Joanna Alexander, Rabbi Marcus Burstein and Educator Harriet Levine. HUC-JIR NY staff were also in attendance, including Rabbi Renni Altman, Cantor Bruce Ruben and Dr. Lisa Grant. We all got a chance to welcome the students to NY, and to their future colleagues and alumni associations, as we schmoozed and ate together.
After a long day of administrative orientation, with the High Holidays only a couple of weeks away, this event was a wonderful way for the students to decompress and feel welcomed, ask questions of those of us in the field and just hang out. The event was a total success! The three alumni associations will collaborate in planning this cocktail party every August for the incoming class. We hope that we will perpetuate a tradition that will continue to make the new students on the block feel welcomed to NY and the NY campus.
SOON-TO-BE SSM ALUMNI
MEET THE CLASS OF 2011!
I grew up in mid-Michigan at East Lansing's Congregation Shaarey Zedek and came of musical age in the Michigan State University Children's Choir, Interlochen Arts Camp, and the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club. Upon getting voice degrees from U-M and the New England Conservatory, I flew to Jerusalem in 2006 with my muse/fiancée Donna, a mezzo-soprano, to begin cantorial studies at HUC-JIR. We got married when we returned to the US and have since lived in Astoria, NY. I am honored to be a member of the HUC-JIR Worship Working Group and the URJ Joint Commission on Worship, Music and Religious Living, and, after many wonderful years of schooling, I'm very excited to enter the professional cantorate and become a member of the ACC!
I grew up in Minneapolis and went to the University of Minnesota for vocal performance. After college I worked in video/meeting production, apartment management and taught voice lessons while getting a master’s degree from the U of MN. I’ve lived in Brooklyn (and loved it!) for the past four years while attending HUC and trying to find time to experience life in NY as much as possible. I’ve enjoyed my experiences at my student pulpits in Plainview, East Hampton and Lawrence on Long Island, Pesach in Puerto Rico for three years and my current position at Rodeph Sholom where I’ve been for two years. I have a passion for all kinds of music, theater (my boyfriend Allan is a playwright), and the great outdoors.
My journey to the cantorate was shaped by defining musical experiences as a child growing up at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Manhattan, and as a college student at Yale University, singing in the Jewish a capella group, Magevet. Touring with Magevet, I saw how Jews everywhere connect deeply to their musical heritage. After graduating with a B.A. in History, I volunteered for the IDF as a combat soldier for fifteen months, and then applied to HUC, where I met my wife, Carla Fenves. I am hoping to become the first cantor to serve as a US Army Chaplain, and to deploy to Afghanistan in 2012. I enjoy rooting for the NY Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, reading histories and biographies, traveling and hiking, and listening to Jewish music.
I am the proud father of four month old Eliana, who graciously sits on my lap while I practice my nusach. An aspiring composer, I created the HUC Composer's Showcase, a concert featuring original works by HUC faculty and students, now in its third year. While serving as the SSM Student President this past year, I worked with the other presidents to draft the Student Association’s first constitution, including a mission statement and SA elections reform. I am honored to have been student cantor at Temple Beth El of Jersey City, NJ, for the past four years, and am excited to discover what awaits me after investiture. When I need a break from thesis work, I enjoy reading and discovering new TV series on Netflix.
MARY REBECCA THOMAS
I am a native of Bayonne, NJ and have wanted to be a cantor ever since I became a Bat Mitzvah. I studied History and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University and had the great privilege of working for and studying with Cantor Andrew Bernard for three years before entering HUC. While at HUC, I served Union Temple of Brooklyn and Temple Israel of New Rochelle as chazzan sheini to Cantor Erik Contzius. My cantorial education has allowed me to develop my particular passions for composition, modern and postmodern Jewish thought and creating innovative and meaningful worship. My husband, Matthew Moore, and I are the very proud new parents to Johannah Ateret Thomas-Moore, born on November 12, 2010.
Born and raised in Toronto, I grew up at Temple Har Zion in Thornhill, Ontario, where I eventually became a religious school teacher and youth advisor. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, during which time I was both teacher and Assistant Principal at Iyr Hamelech congregation. I received my Associate’s degree in Child and Youth Work from Humber College in Toronto and spent several years working in group homes and counseling facilities. I discovered my love for Jewish music at the Goldman Union Camp Institute in Indiana, and continued as staff and head songleader at the B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp in PA and the URJ Kutz camp. I am passionate about interfaith dialogue, youth work and outreach, and am very excited to begin my career as a cantor.