By Jennifer Corr
It was an afternoon of music at Temple Or Elohim, a community reform congregation in Jericho, on June 12.
Cantor David Katz was joined by a group of three women cantors, the Shul Sisters in what was the temple’s first “big event” since the pandemic began.
Ahead of the show, Cantor Katz said he was feeling “tremendous excitement” for the community.
“As you can, this is our 10th one,” Cantor Katz said. “We’ve had everything from the Pop-Symphony Orchestra to Tony Award-winner, Broadway composer Steven Lutvak… The entire point of this concert is to bring the community the highest level shows, Manhattan level shows you don’t have to go into Manhattan for. And you don’t have to pay much for it.”
Cantor Katz said he’s enjoyed the enthusiasm of the community, who he says often reaches out to him to ask when the next concert is going to be and who would be performing, adding to a reputation as the “music temple of the North Shore.”
But the concerts weren’t completely canceled due to the pandemic. During that time of isolation, Cantor Katz said 70 songs were sent out to the congregation to vote on, and the top 25 songs were performed by him in a virtual concert. Cantor Katz said he read texts sent by the congregation in between songs as a commentary. The temple also hosted an outdoor concert in June of 2021.
For this year’s concert, Cantor Katz said he was connected to the Shul Sisters through of good friend who saw the group live and said they’d be a good match for the annual Cantor Concert.
To practice with a group that hails from Chicago and New York, Cantor Katz said they were all only able to rehearse once.
“But everyone’s a professional,” Cantor Katz said. “You shouldn’t have any problems if you know your music.”
What’s special about this year’s concert is the beauty of the music and the style, Cantor Katz said. The focus of the show was on Jewish music, with a little bit of Broadway.
Just down the hall from Cantor Katz’s room, the Shul Sisters were getting ready for the show. The three members of the Shul Sisters, Cantor Laurie Akers, Cantor Rachel Brook and Cantor Rachel Goldman, each wore a red dress.
Meeting at a cantor conference, on a bench, the group formed in January 2019, releasing a viral video “I’m going to Walk It With You” with Christian faith leaders. That video inspired them to continue performing and connecting communities.
“The three were preparing to put on a concert just before the pandemic hit, and then, since they all lived across the country, the group went virtual.
“We very quickly learned how to practice and record on our own,” Goldman said. “We each had our own relationships with the recording studios. We each had our own friends or husbands who could record us. We spent a lot of time on FaceTime. We were probably on FaceTime 10 times a day.”
And, the three still FaceTime often as they’ve become close friends. They have become like aunts to each other’s children.
“It’s our passion project to do with each other,” Brook said. “We all have full-time pulpits as cantors. Now two of us are based in Chicago.”
This passion project is a dream come true, the group agreed, as they get to travel with their best friends.
The concert began at 3:30 p.m.
“Clap, sing, dance and whatever your hearts desire,” said an organizer Laurel Fried of Temple Or Elohim, “Just enjoy the show.”
Performances included both Cantor Katz and the Shul Sisters performing, in unison, solos from Cantor Katz and trios from the Shul Sisters.
And it was clear the audience was delighted, clapping along to the songs with a faster tempo.
Visit www.orelohim.com to view the concert online.
Cantor David Katz
Cantor David Aaron Katz is a graduate of the Hebrew Union College Institute of Jewish Religion. He was invested as cantor by Hebrew Union College in 1998.
While studying in Israel, he was engaged as the leading tenor in the Jerusalem Great Synagogue Choir singing under the baton of Eli Jaffe and alongside the voice of Cantor Naftali Herstik. He has served as cantor on Long Island and was also the cantor of the Raleigh Hotel in the Catskills of New York. Cantor Katz has led services from full instrumental ensembles for Jazz Shabbats to large choirs of adults and children. His vocal and musical expression is built out of the desire to engage congregations in prayer with the use of voice, inspiring all people to join together as one. Cantor Katz is a member of the “The Three Jewish Tenors” along with cantors Alberto Mizrachi and David Propis. He has sung with the Houston Grand Opera Symphony with Marvin Hamlisch conducting, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, The Pacific Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, The Queens Oratorio Society Symphony, The Orchestra Cammerate in Italy, The Pan American Orchestra Of New York, The One World Symphony, as well as many other prominent orchestras throughout the United States, in addition to singing lead roles in Opera in the United States and Europe. He has appeared in cantorial concerts in the United States as a guest soloist and artist. Cantor Katz has also sung the National Anthem for the New York Mets at Citi Field and the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.
Cantor Laurie Akers
Cantor Akers is a celebrated Jewish Rock Radio artist whose compositions have received national acclaim. Her song, “Stand Strong,” has served as the anthem for numerous social justice programs throughout the country. She serves as the host of Jewish Rock Radio Chicago Sings, a concert series that brings cantors and musicians from over 20 congregations together. She serves as a cantor at Congregation Or Shalom in suburban Chicago and her album, The Key of We, can be found on all major music platforms.
Cantor Rachel Goldman
Ordained as a cantor from the Academy for Jewish Religion California in 2014, Cantor Goldman holds a Masters of Jewish Sacred Music from the same institution, and has served for seven years as cantor for Congregation Beit T’Shuvah. She has been featured as cantor with ensembles such as the Houston Symphony, the Houston Opera Chorus and the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, among other ensembles. She currently serves as cantor for Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. She will soon become the senior cantor for the largest conservative congregation in the United States, Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston.
Cantor Rachel Brook
Serving as the senior cantor of Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, Cantor Brook is the first female senior cantor in the congregation’s 150-year history. She previously served as cantor for Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City. Her first solo album, L’chayim Ul’shalom: Songs of Life and Peace was released in 2020. She has also been featured as soloist for several Park Avenue Synagogue albums, among other accomplishments. She received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and her Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy with Distinction from Westminister Choir College of Rider University. She was ordained as Hazzan at the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of JTS in 2016.