from the pages of Kadima, the official newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:
From the Desk of Cantor Shapiro
It was the spring of 2003, and I was completing my studies as a graduate student at the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred Music. In a few months, I would be invested as a cantor and I was in the midst of a job search. You all know how this story ends, but you don’t know the middle.
Before the position at Adas Emuno was posted, I walked away from pursuing a cantorial position after having a conversation with a Rabbi who told me that if I worked with him I would not be allowed to officiate at interfaith marriages. To me, this was a deal-breaker.
Interfaith work and outreach have always been an important part of my work as a cantor. We hear much in the Jewish press about the imminent demise of the Jewish people due to intermarriage. I can say from a very personal point of view that I just plain don’t buy it. I am the product of an interfaith marriage. If we, as a religion, are losing interfaith couples and interfaith families, then I believe we need to look inward. Why are people walking away from us?
It is precisely for this reason that I feel it’s of the utmost importance to be there for interfaith couples who are willing to create a Jewish home and who are choosing a Jewish ceremony to mark the beginning of their life as a married couple. Clergy need to be available for interfaith couples during the ritually formative moments of their lives. If we absent ourselves from these moments and say that after the wedding, the couple is welcome in our sanctuary, who can blame them for turning elsewhere?
Throughout my tenure at Congregation Adas Emuno, I’ve enjoyed the freedom offered to me by this congregation to officiate at interfaith ceremonies. When I do so I strive to represent our Jewish faith with dignity and integrity. I also have represented our congregation in meetings with our local clergy association, through which we create our annual interfaith Thanksgiving Service. And every year, I take time to participate in a conference of Colleagues in Dialogue, which is sponsored by Sacred Heart University’s Center for Christian Jewish Dialogue.
This November, I have been offered a very special opportunity to represent Judaism and Jewish music in a unique forum. I’ll be flying to Rome with nineteen other Reform cantors from all over North America to sing in a concert of Jewish music to be held at the Vatican. If you are interested in coming along, please respond to the ad accompanying this article. If you can’t come, but you’d like to be there in spirit and would like to support this endeavor, please feel free to contact me at cantorkshapiro at mac.com. I look forward to sending you updates from Rome during November.
May the New Year bring us many opportunities for dialogue with our Jewish brothers and sisters and with those of other faiths. And may learning about other faiths and sharing about ours strengthen our own Judaism.
Concert of American Cantors at the Vatican
and Second Catholic/Jewish Meeting
November 14-18, 2010
Concert is November 16 at 7 p.m. at the Basilica of Santa Marie degli Angeli e dei Matiri, before Pope Benedict XVI, and other Vatican leaders. Congregational members are invited to participate. Meeting includes: 4 nights accommodation at the Michaelangelo hotel; Opening Reception with Cardinals at Nun’s Building (with exceptional views of the Vatican); Visit to Rome Synagogue; Papal Audience and Open Discussions with Vatican Officials on C/J Relations and other topics; Dining with Seminarians at North American College; Rededicating Yom Hashoa Menorah; Tour of Vatican Museum, Cathedral and other sites/other cities; Closing Dinner. Cantors and participants will also be part of the filming of a documentary on Catholic-Jewish Relations: “Across the Holy Lands”. Cost for participants: $1590 per person based on double occupancy; $1850 single occupancy. **Airfare not included**. For additional information, contact: sf276 at hotmail.com at the Interreligious Information Center (IIC), P.O. Box 1443, Port Washington NY 11050.