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Cantor Epstein Reviews Her First Year at Temple B'nai Abraham

Bulletin Article


 Cantor Jessica Fox Epstein


September 2006


It is truly an honor to begin this year at Temple B’nai Abraham as your new senior cantor.


During this past year I have gotten to know many of you, and my family and I feel truly welcome here. In my new position, I look forward to getting to know even more of you as we share simchas, celebrate chagim, and move through the cycle of the Jewish year together.


One of the many things which drew me to TBA was your music. The musical tradition of Temple B’nai Abraham is deep and profound. It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of cantors such as Abraham Shapiro, Nathaniel Sprinzen, and of course, my mentor and friend, Lee Coopersmith.


At TBA, the timeless music of composer and music director Max Helfman still resounds on Shabbat but is especially present during the upcoming Days of Awe. His work reflects not only a masterful approach to vocal composition, but more importantly, an ability to capture the unique flavor of Jewish liturgical music, which includes joy, but also suffering and solemnity.


The music of the Days of Awe is markedly different from our joyous, peaceful music of Shabbat. It is often heavy, more complicated, and at times even difficult to listen to. But once a year, these old melodies bring our hearts and souls to a very profound place.


Our prayers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are extremely humble and petitionary in nature. We beg God to renew us for a good year, a year of peace, a year of health. We implore that our names be written for good in the Book of Life. We wonder who will live, and who will die. Such prayers are not set to toe-tapping, finger-snapping ditties. That intellectual dissonance would be too much to bear.  Instead, we reach into our very souls with music that transcends and inspires.


Let us inspire one another during these holidays. As we stand together before the open ark during these High Holidays, may our voices rise together and strengthen one another. May we be granted peace and health in the year to come.