Meet Jennifer Benrey, our Student Cantor

Notes from our Student Cantor Jennifer…

Dear Temple Israelites,
As remaining stagnant in our homes continues to be our new norm, it becomes very easy to lose our spirit. When our lives are altered in unexpected ways, it never ceases to amaze me how much we take for granted in our day-to-day lives. I recall how when I tore my quadriceps tendon, I came to realize that I had taken for granted my ability to walk and move with ease, and never had I really stopped to marvel at the miracle of the body in that way. As I healed, I found new meaning in the Nisim B’chol Yom, the daily blessings, and prayed them harder than ever before.
Now in this time of quarantine, there is much to be grateful for and to appreciate: the clean air we breathe, nature and its beauty, our ability to self-isolate, having enough means and space in our homes to separate ourselves from our loved ones to prevent illness, our health in general, people’s ability to care for one another, technology that allows us to stay connected…the list goes on and on. In this alien time, take a moment each day and check in with yourself and/or with God. What are you grateful for today? What are you really missing? How are you feeling? What can you do to bring a level of normalcy tomorrow that will keep you moving forward?
Know that whatever you are doing, it is important to be kind to yourself and to recognize that, given the circumstances, you shouldn’t punish yourself if you are not able to be as productive or active or (insert adjective here) as you would be normally. After all, we are all basar vadam, flesh and blood, and we have all been affected in an unexpected way. This is no small change that we are working through, and our lives changed very suddenly and drastically. Your feelings are valid and I’m sure echoed by many others.
I am grateful for the strength of this community and that we are able to connect each week in prayer, albeit virtually. May our prayers continue be elevated, and may the act of praying heal us as well and nourish us with the power of connection.
Student Cantor Benrey
Student Cantor Jennifer Benrey
Shalom Temple Israelites,
This month, the Hebrew Calendar denotes that we are in the month of Adar, the month that is supposed to be filled with joy and celebration. Reflecting on this past month, we too have experienced much joy in the synagogue. February brought us Shabbat Shira, where both our adult and junior choirs shared their beautiful music with us. We relived our ancestor’s joy of finally crossing the sea to freedom as we heard the chanting of Shira Hayam, the song that Moses and Miriam sang with the Israelites. We also heard the chanting of the Ten Commandments, just as our ancestors did at the foot of Mount Sinai, and shared in their joy of receiving God’s law. Though our ancestors struggled going forward into their journey in the wilderness, we too must not forget their joy at have been chosen to walk forward in that path of God. We too are chosen to enjoy the freedom that our ancestors fought so hard for.
The passion and beautiful music that both of our congregational choirs bring us here at Temple Israel bring me immense joy and help remind me that joy is meant to shared. Music is a beautiful vehicle to elevate our souls in that joy. It is said that when we sing, we pray twice; may we continue to raise our voices together in song this month and pray with exceeding joy, the joy of community.
Student Cantor Jennifer Benrey


About Student Cantor Jennifer….

Shalom, Temple Israelites!’

For those whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jennifer Benrey, and I am incredibly excited to be your student cantor beginning this September!

I was born and raised in Miami Beach, FL, and come from a diverse Jewish background. My mother is a Hungarian Ashkenazi Jew and my dad is a Cuban Turkish Sephardic Jew. I am what we in Miami refer to as a “Jewban”. My Judaism is influenced by both my Reform Jewish upbringing and also by the customs and culture of my Cuban Turkish Sephardic family. I am fluent in Spanish and grew up reading the haggadah for both Rosh Hashanah and Pesach in 4 languages: English, Hebrew, Spanish, and Ladino.

I am currently in my 4th year of cantorial school at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Florida State University in 2013, where I earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree in Choral Music. I had the pleasure of teaching Jewish and secular music (and math) in Miami in various capacities prior to my cantorial studies while also serving as the assistant conductor of two Jewish community choirs and leading services regularly at several synagogues across Miami. Choir is a huge passion of mine, and I am very much looking forward to working with the adult choir this year!

I am currently spending my summer as the cantorial intern at Central Synagogue in Manhattan and have served as the cantorial intern for the past two years at Temple Beth-El in Jersey City. I have been very lucky to have had incredible clergy mentors and congregants in these communities and in other communities where I have served.

I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to be able to grow as a cantor at Temple Israel and am excited to get to know you all and your families and to rejoice together in song!

Student Cantor Jennifer Benrey