Cantor David Bentley ‘00
Temple Shalom, Gold Coast, Australia
What is your mission as the cantor of your congregation in Australia?
For 12 years I was the only Reform clergy in Queensland, a state physically 2.5 times the size of Texas with a Reform population of about 200 households split between 3 congregations in towns 50 miles apart. My mission was to be spiritual leader to this small, remote, fragmented community as best I could, using my religious training, knowledge, and skills as and when requested.
How does your work strengthen the Jewish community in Australia?
As an ordained Cantor I am a full member of the Assembly of Rabbis & Cantors, which is the Australasian Region’s counterpart to the CCAR. My participation in this professional network helps ensure that my small, isolated community in Queensland remains connected to the mainstream of Jewish life both in our region and the wider Jewish world.
How did your education at HUC-JIR prepare you for your career?
Pastoral counseling skills developed at HUC-JIR are the foundation of my work.
What impact are you having in advancing Jewish identity, education, and engagement?
I was fortunate to be working in a community which is Judaically knowledgeable despite its remoteness. This has allowed me to focus on the pure joy of practicing our faith. My teaching has given youth and conversion candidates a strong foundation of Jewish knowledge. With lifecycle events I have strengthened people’s sense of connection to Judaism. As spiritual leader I have helped my congregants build their understanding of our faith and how to apply it in their daily lives. I was also able to enrich congregational life in a more concrete way, creating programs that created greater engagement from the grass roots membership.