HUC-JIR's Inspiring Day of Learning in Jerusalem Celebrates Cantorial Excellence

The Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem recently hosted HUC-JIR’s Day of Learning for the American Conference of Cantors and the Guild of Temple Musicians, an event that was as heartwarming as it was inspiring. Organized by Cantor Jill Abramson, Director of HUC-JIR’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, and Cantor Sarah Grabiner, Assistant Director and Cantorial Program Coordinator for the Year-in-Israel Program (YII), the day was a testament to the enduring power of sacred music and community.

In a day where warmth and camaraderie provided a welcome respite to the challenges of the post-October 7th world, alumni and guests were cared for by the dedicated Taube Family Campus team and cared for each other. They enjoyed engaging learning sessions led by esteemed YII faculty members, and explored a variety of topics with leading experts:

– Dr. Naomi Cohn Zentner, former adjunct faculty in the YII program and now an assistant professor at Bar Ilan University, presented on “Religiosity in mainstream Israeli music culture: slichot, bakashot and more…”

– Rabbi Dr. Michael Marmur, Associate Professor of Jewish Theology at HUC-JIR Jerusalem and former Provost and Dean, discussed “Leadership in challenging times, leading in times of doubt…”

– Rabbi Dr. Dalia Marx, the Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Professor of Liturgy and Midrash at HUC-JIR Jerusalem, led a session titled “From Time to Time; Journeys in the Jewish Calendar.”

– Dr. Tanya Sermer, adjunct faculty in the YII program, offered insights on “Popular music since October 7 through hearing the soundscape of the moment.”

A celebratory lunch followed, honoring Emeritus Professor Eli Schleifer, Ph.D., affectionately known as the chazan’s chazan, and the publication of his anthology, “Mizmor L’Eli: The Eliyahu Schleifer Anthology” by TMP. Attendees were treated to a special musical program and heard from Cantor Dr. Schleifer himself, a unique opportunity to experience his significant contributions to the field of sacred music firsthand. Professor Schleifer received more than one standing ovation. Faculty and alumni from past decades shared a meal, creating a touching “meeting of the generations.” For many ACC members, this is where their journey began, and the day was filled with hugging, singing, and even tears of joy and gratitude. Attendees revisited old classrooms, found their photos on the walls, and reflected on their personal journeys, all while connecting deeply to their shared heritage and art.

The afternoon session, titled “Piyut and Fusion: How Do We Bring the Diverse Soundscape of Contemporary Liberal Israeli Judaism into Our Synagogues?” was equally inspiring. It featured soul-stirring performances and teachings from two of Jerusalem’s most exciting ensembles, both instructors in the cantorial YII program. The Nigunim Ensemble, led by Rabbi Cantor Shani Ben-Or ‘21, and Boaz Dorot, along with Tandu, featuring Yahala Lachmish and Shani Lachmish, delivered dynamic and heart-opening performances that represented the cutting edge of musical creativity. Their contributions left a lasting impression, highlighting the vibrant and evolving nature of Jewish music.

Amidst the sorrow and challenges of Jewish life post-October 7th, the Day of Learning was a beacon of hope and a powerful reminder of the healing and unifying power of sacred music. It provided participants with invaluable insights, profound inspiration, and a deeper connection to Jewish music and leadership, ensuring that the legacy of creativity and compassion continues to thrive.

With gratitude to the Azrieli Foundation, whose generous support helped make this meaningful day possible.