Dear Chevrei (Friends),
Nearly a year ago, Temple Israel set off on a search for its next cantor. While the process might be best served by having an American Idol style contest – which would leave us with a great singer – the search for a cantor here needs to have far more depth because we expect our cantor to have much more than a great voice. An American Idol style process would have overlooked the many things that our leadership, guided by our Worship Taskforce’s blueprint for the future of worship and community life, was seeking in a new cantor. We were on the hunt for a well-rounded, professional clergyperson who could bring us into that future by bringing a bevy of skills, talents and personality traits to meet our unique needs. We have found such a person in Cantor Randall Schloss, coming to us from Brookline, Massachusetts.
Cantor Schloss brings us nine years of pulpit experience, a lifetime of musical abilities (he plays many instruments including cello, guitar, drum, piano), an outstanding vocal range (from folk music to opera – he used to be a professional opera singer), and a full gamut of pastoral skills. He composes music, conducts choirs, is relatable and academic (he holds four degrees!), and is an all-around genuinely good person. He fits all the criteria we set out to find all those months ago; our Cantorial Search Committee deserves many kudos for their work.
Every synagogue would want to have a cantor with all of these skills, though not everyone can find such a person. Beyond all of these skills, however, comes the mission of the job as it is here at Temple Israel. Years ago, our Worship Task Force laid out several key elements necessary to transform our worship to meet both our current needs and meet the needs of our ever-evolving future here. These include some tall orders – fully integrating our new prayerbook (which we have been using, but not to its fullest abilities), shifting our music to include more instrumentation and contemporary musical settings, using the Reform Movement’s new High Holiday prayerbook, creating a seamless congregational repertoire spanning the ages of our congregation – from our infants to our oldest seniors - and, perhaps most important, using Jewish music to elevate our collective voices – be that in the sanctuary, in youth group or on the march towards a socially just world.
Rabbi Nichols and I have worked over the last few years to make much of this a reality with help from the Worship Committee, the Board and many lay leaders. But, as valiant as our attempts have been, we have been missing something – in the words of that great sage, Reggie Jackson, we’ve been without “the straw to stir the drink!” Throughout the many months of searching for a cantor, one candidate felt, to us, like that catalyst Temple Israel needs to make it all come together. We both feel that Cantor Schloss’ combination of skills and experiences will get us where we want to go; where we need to be in the future.
While there is never any guarantee that a new clergy person will be a perfect fit, we have some measure of security in Cantor Schloss. Not only have I seen him create dynamic worship, lead great singing and craft engaging communities, I have done it with him. Cantor Schloss and I have shared the pulpit before – both at Central Synagogue and at my former congregation, the Hebrew Tabernacle, both in Manhattan. I have seen firsthand, and experienced firsthand, the power of Cantor Schloss’ abilities. Even more, I know that wherever he has been in his career he has made a mark that is long remembered for its excellence, caring and attention to detail. This is a collegial partnership that I am happy to renew on our bimah here in New Rochelle.
I know that you are as excited as Rabbi Nichols and I are to have Cantor Schloss lead us for years to come. July 1st is just around the corner, and so is a bright future.
Welcome, Cantor Schloss!
Senior Rabbi Scott B. Weiner