My spiritual journey began on the streets of Brooklyn, New York. My family belonged to a conservative synagogue, and it was there that I attended Hebrew School, became a Bar Mitzvah, and continued my Jewish studies through High School and Confirmation. Early on, I became active in the temple’s Junior Congregation, often filling the role of cantor at Shabbat services.
I also began singing professionally at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where at age nine, I met the world famous cantor and operatic tenor, Richard Tucker. When Tucker found out that I was Jewish and from Brooklyn, he took me under his wing. When Tucker died suddenly, I was devastated. Shortly after his untimely passing, his widow invited me to participate in a memorial service at the small Lower East Side temple where Tucker had begun his cantorial career. I was thirteen years old. Looking back, I consider this event to have been one of the great honors of my life, as well as the moment when I first realized that I might have a “calling.”
I graduated from Oberlin College where I studied voice, as well as a broad range of academic subjects. During that time, my Jewish identity evolved and grew as I was exposed to students with different ideas and backgrounds. I was an active participant in the campus Hillel, and attended Shabbat services regularly. After receiving my Bachelor’s degree, I returned to New York where I continued my vocal studies and worked several jobs in retail. One of those jobs, as a record salesman at the now defunct Tower Records was located in Greenwich Village on the corner of Broadway and West 4th Street. Every day, I would walk from the subway station to work, passing a red brick building that I didn’t pay much attention to as I drank my morning coffee. Little did I know that I would soon be entering that building – Hebrew Union College – as a student, preparing for my life’s work of serving the community.
Feeling the need for more structure in my life, I applied to several conservatories for graduate studies, and was awarded a full merit scholarship to attend the Yale School of Music. I loaded up the car and headed off to New Haven, but something interesting and somewhat unexpected happened while I was there. Although greatly encouraged by the faculty, who believed that I could have a successful career in the Performing Arts, I began to imagine a life of more spiritual meaning, where I could use my voice not just to entertain, but to inspire, uplift, comfort, and touch people’s lives in a meaningful and profound way. All of these thoughts led me to walk away from Yale and change my career path.
Returning to New York I entered the red brick building that I had passed so many times, filled out an application, and was accepted into the Cantorial Program that would lead to a Master of Sacred Music degree and Ordination as a Cantor. After years of serving congregations as a Cantor, I decided to expand my knowledge and enhance my skill by becoming a Rabbi. I entered the Rabbinic program of the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute (JSLI) in New York and received my Rabbinic Ordination. I had found a “calling” that has brought me a sense of fulfillment, meaning and purpose that has only grown deeper over the years. In 2014, Hebrew Union College bestowed an Honorary Doctorate degree upon me in recognition of my 25 years of distinguished and devoted service to the community.
I have proudly served congregations in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and West Palm Beach. In each community, I have been involved in many aspects of Jewish life. I have trained young men and women to stand before the Torah as they become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. I have rejoiced with couples at their wedding ceremony. I have consoled mourners during their time of grief, pain and loss. I have celebrated with parents as their baby receives a Hebrew name and enters into the covenant of the Jewish People. I have worked tirelessly to “build bridges” between people of different faiths. I have brought creativity and innovation to prayer experiences. And I have helped people strengthen their connection with the Divine “spark” that resides within.
Today's world presents a unique set of challenges. Many non-orthodox Jews view the institution of the synagogue with skepticism, and consider it to be an archaic and irrelevant institution. Some are troubled by high membership dues and building funds. Some do not feel completely welcomed because of their background, family structure, sexual orientation, or because people do not reach out to them. For others, just entering a synagogue can be intimidating if they have not connected with their Jewish roots for a long time.
Jewish tradition has always emphasized the importance of community, and for centuries the institution of the synagogue has been at the center of that belief – as a House of Prayer, a House of Study, and a House of Gathering. It is the preferred and traditional way to live a Jewish life, and I applaud and respect all those who choose to become members of and support a temple. You are doing an honorable and appropriate thing.
If, however, you are not affiliated with a synagogue, I still believe that you should be able to benefit from the services of an experienced and skilled member of the clergy. Using my extensive training, knowledge and experience, in combination with flexibility, professionalism, warmth, passion and integrity, my goal is to provide the very highest level of service for those who desire the presence of an ordained rabbi or cantor.
Whether you need a patient, encouraging and experienced teacher for your son or daughter who is preparing to become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah…someone to help you plan and officiate at the perfect wedding ceremony…a compassionate and caring clergy person to help you through a time of loss…a beautiful musical presence at your child’s Bris or Baby Naming….or an uplifting and spiritual voice to inspire and entertain at your charity event, social club, or family gathering...
I am at your service.
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