Meet Jennifer Benrey, our Student Cantor

Notes from our Student Cantor Jennifer…

 

Shalom, Everyone!

What an action-packed month we are entering! The High Holiday season is full of new beginnings and chances for us to better ourselves as people. Each year, we are granted the opportunity to evaluate our lives and acknowledge within ourselves where we missed the mark. With four holidays in a row, each a week apart, I asked myself, “Why then do we move straight from Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, to the joyous harvest festival, Sukkot? It makes sense that the harvest festival of Sukkot happens in autumn to coincide with farmers’ yearly harvest, but why else might Sukkot be the first real celebration of the new year?

When we begin each day, we recite the prayer “Modeh/Modah Ani”, where our first words uttered are words of thanks to God. We then continue in prayer giving thanks for a multitude of things we might normally take for granted. With this in mind, it makes sense then that the first celebration the week after Yom Kippur is one of giving thanks. Just as we begin each day with thanks, so too might we begin our year with it as well. Sukkot is often thought of as the Jewish Thanksgiving where we celebrate the food we eat and the roofs over our heads. What a powerful notion that we might begin our year with thanks and let that gratitude be the lens through which we approach the new year. I pray that in this new year, 5780, we have the clarity to approach each day through the lens of gratitude, and that we try not to take our blessings and growth opportunities for granted.

I wish you all a wonderful new year and an easy fast. May this year be a year filled with blessing, and may we be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Shanah tova umetukah,
Student Cantor Jennifer Benrey

 

Shalom, Temple Israelites!

I hope you all have had a wonderful and relaxing summer, and I’m so excited to start this year with you in prayer and in learning. I have been busy these few weeks with the choir and with our wonderful accompanist, Elona, in preparation for the High Holy Days. Can you believe they are just around the corner?

As preparations get under way and as we prepare to enter the month of Elul, we once again prepare ourselves to confront our year and our own shortcomings. This season of return is a chance for us to acknowledge, that despite all the bad or neglectful choices we might have made this year, we have the opportunity to return to our best selves, to what we truly find important, and to God. Where are you this time this year? How have you grown? Where have you faltered? What would you like to return to?

This month, as we return to our busy lives and brace ourselves for the coming holidays, I pray that these questions bring us each to an enlightened sense of self so that we may be ready to face our iniquities and strengthen all our bonds through t’shuvah.

Shana tova umetuka to all.
I wish you a sweet, sweet year filled with many blessings.

B’shir v’shalom,
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!

B’shirah,
Student Cantor Jennifer Benrey