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I Am a Lucky Man

At the end of June, I will be concluding my service at Washington Hebrew and officially retiring. I’m so fortunate to have served this Congregation for one-third of my life (I’m planning to live at least until 90).

I feel very lucky and blessed that God gave me an opportunity to serve this prestigious and wonderful Congregation. When I was offered the position as the Cantor at WHC, some of my cantorial colleagues warned me that large congregations could be cold and unfriendly. They said that my family and I would not be a part of a congregational community. How wrong they were! At that time, in 1989, I listened to their opinions, but I did what I have always done, and as the song says, I did it my way.

On my very first day, I walked into Kaufmann Sanctuary and was struck by its beauty and grandeur. Since then, every day for the past 31 years, it has been a true honor to serve as your Cantor. Over these 31 years, with your help and encouragement, I was able to accomplish many of my aspirations and dreams. 

I was standing on the shoulders of such incredible people as Rabbi Joseph Weinberg (who hired me), Cantor Roy Garber, and Herman Berlinsky — musical director par excellence. Today, I’m privileged to serve with outstanding staff, including Rabbi Lustig, Rabbi Shankman, Rabbi Miller, Rabbi Fischel, Cantor Bortnick, Steve Jacober, Ira Miller, Stephanie Tankel, and Beth Donaldson — who work with me every day, and many, many others who make Washington Hebrew Congregation such a special, warm, and caring place. 

What makes WHC so unique? It is the people who are part of a congregational family. They are compassionate, principled, extraordinary, and outstanding. I always say that Washington, D.C. attracts the best and the brightest, and so it is with our congregational community. 

How does one summarize 31 years of service?  I’ll share with you some of the unforgettable moments of my life here:

The thousands of b’nei mitzvah children I have trained. Sometimes parents ask if I get bored doing the same service every week. Well, my answer is always the same — I have not participated in your child’s b’nei mitzvah yet. Every child is different; that is what makes your family’s milestone a special one.

The hundreds and hundreds of weddings, baby namings, funerals, and shiva services I have officiated. During these life cycle ceremonies, you feel a connection with the family. You share with them joy and laughter, tears and sadness.

The weekly rehearsals I’ve led for 31 years with our congregational choir, Kol Rinah — each one full of music, laughter, camaraderie, and fun.

Rehearsing each week with our professional choir, under the direction of our very talented organists, Michael Parrish and David Lang.

Working closely with Temple’s three very active adult groups: Prime Timers, EmptyNesters, and The Boomers.

The more than 20 musical groups I brought to Washington Hebrew under the auspices of the Irene & Abe Pollin Music Program Initiative, which allowed the Congregation to learn new ways of welcoming and celebrating Shabbat.

The numerous concerts and programs I sang in with guest artists and Cantor Bortnick.

Working with the different artists who opened our Selichot services with memorable concerts. 

Helping to lead congregational trips to Israel, Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, and Russia, as well as an unforgettable Passover cruise to the Caribbean islands. 

Being the Cantor of Washington Hebrew Congregation has given me opportunities I would have never experienced otherwise. I sang on the stages of the Kennedy Center and Constitutional Hall. I participated in multiple ecumenical services at National Cathedral, working with their music director Michael McCarthy and their fabulous choir. For more than 10 years, I sang our national anthem and “Hatikvah” at the opening of the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. I was the first Cantor invited to participate in Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service for Presidents Obama and Trump.

Now, at the conclusion of my time here at Washington Hebrew Congregation, I can truly say that the last 31 years were my life’s calling, not just a job. It was a dream that became a reality.