Notes from our Student Cantor Jennifer…
This time of year is a pretty dark one. Thanks to daylight savings time, by 5:30 pm, the sun has already said goodbye for the day and we are left in darkness. Also in this season, we see an emergence of festive lights that illuminate us, on our houses and on our busy streets, lighting our way forward into the night. This interplay of light and darkness, warmth and coldness, is punctuated by the chilly weather that gets even colder each night when all light is gone. Light, dark, warm, cold…it’s a cycle that repeats itself each day.
Our prayers of creation, Yotzeir Or and Maariv Aravim, highlight this interplay of light and darkness, reading, “goleil or mipnei choshech v’choshech mipnei or”, “rolling light away from darkness and darkness from light”. It describes light and dark as part of a delicate dance, one always moving away from the other. Just like the sun and moon seemingly go up and down, so do the highs and lows of our lives. We are in a constant cycle of ups and downs, and our resilience carries us through the hardships to make way for joy. Our joy and optimism also make room for hardship because we know that it will eventually get better, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are resilient.
Our ancestors too were resilient. The Maccabees fought against Hellenism and the Seleucid army to reclaim Jerusalem and resanctify the Temple. They fought for what they believed in and deflected each blow headed their way in order that they might bring traditional Judaism back to the Temple. The last would-be-blow was that they only had enough oil to last one day, but it miraculously lasted for eight days.
As we light our candles during this Festival of Lights, may we be reminded of our inner light, our inner strength that gets us through all hurdles. May we find the courage to carry that light with us in our darkest moments. May we notice the miracles in our lives and help others find their lights, and when we don’t have the strength to keep our inner flames lit, may we have the strength to ask for help to nurture them, so that we might all share in their warmth.
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