Notes from our Student Cantor Jennifer…
Dear Temple Israel family,
What a bittersweet moment this is for me writing my final newsletter article. It’s also bittersweet because for so many in this time, myself included, goodbyes and defining moments of transition cannot be made in person. Still, we do what we can to mark our rites of passage and moments of transition in the best ways that we can, which are unique to this particularly digital and distant time in our history. What I wouldn’t give to see you all in person and catch up on your lives and give you all hugs, to set foot in our synagogue building once more, and to sing together in joy and prayerful connection. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to see your faces each week and still feel your presence and see your smiles.
I have so cherished getting to know you all and share in the unique Torah that each of you brings. Our connections are holy and they have enriched my life. You welcomed me with open arms into your community, and I am beyond grateful for the love you have shared, my own personal sukkah of shalom. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to learn your rituals and how you do Jewish and also the opportunity to envision for the community and enact new ways of reaching spiritual uplift.
I am especially grateful to the adult and junior choirs for all they have given of their time, voices, and heart. Your voices will ring out soon and the joy they bring will be more uplifting than ever. Thank you for inspiring me and granting me the space to express my passion for choral singing.
Thank you also to my sweet religious school students for their dedication and heart, especially in this time of quarantine. I have loved our conversations in class and have learned as much from you as I hope you have learned from me. I also cherish the fun we had singing together in music class each week. I am comforted in knowing that the future of the Jewish people is bright with you at its forefront. I love you and will miss you dearly.
It goes without saying that I have had the best rabbinic partner and mentor in Rabbi Howald. Temple Israel is so lucky to have such a menschy and all around awesome leader. I am privileged to be able to call you a friend. Thank you for absolutely everything. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to work together.
I hope that soon we will all be able to get together at the gala as one TI family so that I can tell you all of this in person, but until then, I hold my gratitude close and will continue to feel the warmth brought to my life from all of you. It has been an incredible two years, and I have been so privileged to have been able to call myself your cantor. I love you all.
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