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Introducing WHC’s Student Cantors

Washington Hebrew Congregation is delighted to announce that two cantorial students at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music in New York City will be joining our congregation for the coming year.

Beth Reinstein and Justin Callis will learn, lead, connect, and interact with every facet of our community. We have several opportunities for you to meet Justin and Beth — and hear their incredible voices — this summer, including at our (virtual) Annual Meeting on Sunday, June 6, at our Shabbat service on Friday, July 23, and when they perform with Cantor Bortnick in our Summer Concert Series on Saturday, July 24.

Beth Reinstein

Beth Reinstein is a cantorial student with a mission to craft community through music. Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Beth’s first introduction to music came through Temple Beth Emeth’s youth choir, where she discovered and experienced how music can bring a community together. Through Temple Beth Emeth’s music program, Beth fostered a love and passion for music that blossomed into her life’s work.

In 2013, Beth received a degree in jazz and contemporary voice at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. While in college, she created “Elle Casazza,” a secular music project. Between 2012 and 2020, Beth (“Elle”) and her band performed all over Chicagoland, toured nationally, recorded and released three albums, and in 2015 were named one of “Eight Young Chicago Artists Making a Dent in Music” by Paste Magazine.

While pursuing her secular music career, Beth also served as a cantorial soloist and song leader at several Chicago area synagogues, including Beth Emet the Free Synagogue, Temple Sholom, Anshe Emet Synagogue, and Sukkat Shalom, among others. She also performs with Jewish Rock Radio’s group “Chicago Sings” and debuted her own liturgical compositions at the URJ Biennial in 2019.

Through her work as a cantorial soloist, Beth realized her heart lay in Jewish music: leading t’filah would always leave her feeling fulfilled and uplifted. It was confirmed for her in 2018 at Hava Nashira, the URJ’s annual songleading and music workshop. As tears streamed down her face during Shabbat services, Beth knew that the cantorate was what she wanted to do with her life.

Beth currently resides in Chicago with her husband Julian and their cat Percy.

Justin Callis

Justin Callis has always loved being in the synagogue. Growing up at Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, Connecticut, Justin sang in the children’s choir throughout elementary and middle school and helped lead it as a madrich in high school. For as long as he can remember, singing at temple always resulted in people asking if he wanted to be (or now was) a cantor.

When Justin moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University, his interest in synagogue music and life deepened. He reconnected with Temple Chai’s Cantor Scott Simon — his childhood cantor who is now a mentor — and for more than 10 years led the tenor section of Temple Chai’s professional choir. Justin was also the music director at Shir Tikvah and a soloist, accompanist, and teacher at KAM Isaiah Israel. Guidance from KAM Isaiah Israel’s Rabbi Frederick Reeves and Cantor David Berger helped direct his path toward cantorial school.

Justin’s passion for musical theater was also born in the synagogue — he performed in an original musical written by his rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel. He built upon that passion at Northwestern, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and theater and a certificate in musical theater. Prior to entering the cantorate, Justin taught music and theater at the Chicago High School for the Arts. At Chicago Opera Theater’s COT for Teens program, he served as composer, music director, orchestrator, and arranger on myriad productions. For many years, Justin also worked with Storycatchers Theatre, helping incarcerated youth transform stories from their lives into original musicals.

Though his career seemed to go along two distinct paths, Justin was drawn to his work in the synagogue. Leading choirs, accompanying rehearsals from the piano, and communal singing are the moments that create life in a congregation and fill him with joy.