Here are answers to some of the most common questions asked by couples, parents and families.
If you don't see the answer to a question you have or would like more details, please feel free to contact me.
Q: What is the difference between a rabbi and cantor?
A: Individuals who receive their rabbinic or cantorial training and complete a rigorous course of study at established Jewish institutions (such as Hebrew Union College for the Reform Movement or Jewish Theological Seminary for the Conservative Movement) earn a master's degree as well as s'micha - which means that they are recognized as equal members of the clergy. Historically, the role of the rabbi was as teacher, scholar and expert in Halacha (Jewish Law). People would come to a rabbi seeking advice, to settle disputes, and to clarify moral or ethical issues based upon Jewish law. The role of the hazzan (cantor) was to act as a shaliach tsibbur (an "emissary" of the community) to lead them in worship through the vehicle of melody, and to interpret the prayers with sincerity, skill, artistry and devotion. Both rabbi and cantor were expected to be pious and observant individuals of impeccable integrity and moral character. Today, the roles of rabbi and cantor have evolved and overlapped. While the emphasis may still be musical, many cantors today are involved with what were once considered "rabbinic" duties such as pastoral visits; life cycle events; counseling; and delivering sermons.
Q: Do I need a rabbi or cantor to officiate at a wedding ceremony, Bar/Bat Mitzvah service or Baby naming?
A: Actually.....no. In fact, according to Jewish Law, the only qualification to perform these ceremonies is to be a knowledgeable adult Jew who is able to offer the appropriate prayers. Under civil law, ordained rabbis and cantors are recognized equally as officiants. By choosing me to officiate at your wedding ceremony, you get a warm, experienced and knowledgeable clergy person who both speaks eloquently and sings beautifully. It's like getting "two for the price of one!"
Q: Can we create our own wedding ceremony or Bar/Bat Mitzvah service?
A: Absolutely! Whether it is a wedding ceremony, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah service, a Bris or Baby naming, the special moments that celebrate the milestones of your life's journey should reflect your unique personality. Working closely with you, we can create a ceremony or service that is distinctly yours. I usually begin by guiding you through and explaining the meaning of "traditional" elements of a Jewish ceremony, such as the breaking of a glass at the conclusion of a wedding. You decide how, when and if you want these elements included in your service. And then we get creative! Is there a Beatles song that you love? Is there a Maya Angelou poem that moves you? Have you seen things at other weddings or Bar/Bat Mitzvahs that you would like to include? The sky's the limit! Once we have outlined the ceremony, we can also create a printed booklet/service/handout for all your guests that can include photos and artwork in addition to any texts you choose. My role is to act as your spiritual guide and help you weave all the strands together to create the perfect ceremony that you have always dreamed about.
Q: We don't live near you. How will you get to know us?
A: That's easy! Through the miracle of modern technology! I use Skype, Facetime and other video conferencing portals, as well as email, texting, and my good old smartphone. For weddings, I will schedule regular phone or video conversations and ask every couple to fill out a detailed questionnaire which will help me to get to know you on many levels. For Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation & ceremonies, I also utilize technology, but prefer - if possible - to work with my students face-to-face.
Q: We don't belong to a synagogue. Where can we hold a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony or Baby Naming?
A: Your ceremony can take place in any location that can accomodate the number of people that you wish to have. I have had the pleasure of conducing Life Cycle events in people's homes (both indoors and out); hotel and resort ballrooms, restaurants and catering halls, and even on the beach or in a park. I have a high quality portable sound system, as well as a Torah scroll, an Ark to hold the Torah, and a lecturn - so that we can create a synagogue-like experience almost anywhere!
Q: Will you travel to our location to officiate?
A: With pleasure! Popular destinations for weddings are the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, but I would be delighted to travel anywhere in the world. It can be challenging to find legitimate and experienced clergy who are both flexible with interfaith issues and willing to personalize your ceremony. Regardless of the location we will work closely together to create a meaningful, inspirational and inclusive ceremony for you, your family, and guests.
Q: Our family dynamics are "complicated." How can you minimize tensions and hurt feelings?
A: My own personal experience as a father, step-father and husband in a "blended" family, and as someone who has several close relatives in interfaith marriages, makes me very sensitive and understanding to the complexities of modern family dynamics. In planning the details of your ceremony, we will discuss all of the relatives that you would like to involve. There are many creative and meaningful ways to include and honor all the people that you love so that no one feels slighted.
Q: We aren't particularly "religious" but would like to include some traditions that are meaningful to us.
A: First, know that you are not alone. Many couples want a wedding ceremony that reflects who they are without the constraints or obligations of following all of the traditional customs Your ceremony can blend ancient tradition with modern readings, music, poetry, and symbolism. I will support and guide you through the creative process.
Q: Do we need a wedding rehearsal?
A: These days, the answer is usually no. Your wedding planner/coordinator and I will make sure that everyone knows exactly what they are doing before we line the bridal party up for the processional. Not to worry. With me, you will be in good hands.
Q: Will you co-offiate with clergy from another faith?
A: Yes - with one caveat. While I respect an interfaith couple's desire to have representatives of both faiths present at their wedding ceremony, it’s important that the clergy involved be on the same page. I would want to speak to any other clergy before giving you a firm commitment. This will help to insure that we can work well together to make your ceremony as beautiful and inclusive as possible. Another option is to find one clergy person who can artfully blend the message of love and kindness that is at the core of all faiths. I am both comfortable and experienced in doing that with sensitivity and skill.
Q: There are many independent rabbis & cantors out there. What makes you different and unique?
A: While it is true that there are many people calling themselves “rabbis” & “cantors” in the marketplace, few actually received their training and ordination from legitimate and recognized Jewish seminaries. After completing undergraduate studies and receiving my B.A. from Oberlin College and pursuing vocal studies at the Yale School of Music, I entered Hebrew Union College, the esteemed institution that trains rabbis, cantors and educators to serve the Reform Movement, which blends Jewish tradition with modernity in the most progressive, creative and liberal way. I earned my Master's Degree and Cantorial Ordination there following an intensive course of study, and was recently honored with a doctorate degree in recognition of my years of distinguished and devoted service to the Jewish community. I earned my Rabbinic Ordination (s'michah) from the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute (JSLI) which has rabbis serving a growing number of congregations and communities throughout the world.
Beyond my academic credentials, colleagues and congregants alike describe me as a kind, compassionate, creative, artistic, decent and ethical person, as well as a professional, knowledgeable, experienced and skilled member of the clergy. Over the years, I have officiated at hundreds of wedding ceremonies, Bar and Bat Mitzvah services, baby namings, and funerals, and am considered to be a eloquent speaker as well as a gifted singer.
I invite you to look at some of the beautiful letters that I have received over the years and listen to the audio samples, to get a taste of the musical and artistic qualities that I can bring to your unique event.
I look forward to hearing from you to discuss how I can best serve your needs!
Rabbi Paul Offenkrantz
Serving Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Beyond!
Email: Phone: (561) 315-4885