Cantor Marcy Kadin is a graduate of HUC-JIR, DFSSM 2009. She is the Cantor at Beth Am Temple in Pearl River, NY.
In what capacity have you volunteered for the ACC? How did you get started?
I was ordained in 2009 at the age of 55. I believe if you feel strongly enough about an organization to become a member, you should do your part for that organization. I have done this all my life. In 2011, I was asked to apply for a board position. I am currently a Board Member-at-Large and I am in charge of Notes Worth Knowing, which appears on the ACC website and is also emailed to lay people who are interested in writings by cantors on many subjects. It is my job as editor to find cantors to write an article each month pertaining to a theme that is chosen each summer. For example, our theme this year corresponds to Rabbi Rick Jacob’s stated goals: Catalyzing Congregational Change, Engaging the Next Generation, and Extending Circles of Responsibility. I am also a member of the Finance Committee.
In your experience what is the best part of being a Cantor?
Other than leading the congregation in song, and trying to raise the level of services through Jewish music, one of my favorite and most rewarding roles is working with children. As a new Cantor, I worried about my ability to be a good teacher, but those worries quickly vanished. I so enjoy working with each student and miss each one once they reach their big day and we no longer meet for extended periods of time.
What do you look forward to at ACC conventions?
Obviously, I look forward to seeing my colleagues and friends because we are so spread out across the country, but one of my favorite things about the convention is the getting the chance to examine, sing, and learn the new Jewish music that is out there. I always attend the Trans-Continental Music sessions with excitement. As a conductor of HaZamir Rockland, a chapter of HaZamir, the International Jewish Teen Choir, I am always looking for new choral pieces to enrich our repertoire.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the cantorate today and into the future?
The changing face of institutional Judaism presents challenges to our profession as well as opportunities. With financial constraints some synagogues have been forced to cut back on their professional staff and clergy. Our ability to be adaptable and serve multiple roles is more important than ever. If we don’t have well educated cantors who are highly trained in the field, we risk losing traditional melodies and our Jewish musical tradition. I grew up in folk music era. I play guitar and love the folk style of Jewish music, but I also continue to explore and use traditional melodies and nusach. It is very important to me that these cherished traditions do not die out.
What influenced you to become Cantor?
My mother was raised in a conservative household. We celebrated Shabbat every Friday night with my “Bubbie and Poppop”. My father was proud to be a Jew but had no interest in attending the synagogue. We joined a very classical Reform congregation as a compromise. It was not located locally and I did not attend with my friends and I always felt quite alone. I did not become a Bat Mitzvah and as the years passed, I felt a real void when it came to my Jewish identity. In college, I started singing Jewish music. I sang in the choir at the Plum Street Temple while earning my Master’s Degree at the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. At a rehearsal, the organist asked me if there were any female cantors. His reply to my negative response was, “Well, if they ever allow them, you should be one.” That response remained in my psyche for almost thirty years. I continued singing Jewish music all those years until I was facing an empty nest. In my mid-forties, with two degrees in Opera and Vocal Performance and 30 years of performing Opera and Oratorio under my belt, I felt it was time to fill that void and really learn about my people, our history, and our musical traditions. I studied Hebrew in preparation for my exam, and with the encouragement of Israel Goldstein, applied to HUC, and was accepted.
What is the one thing about yourself that we might not know, but is something you want to share with us.
Because I believe so strongly that our children are our future, I started and conduct the Rockland County, New York chapter of HaZamir, the International Jewish Teen Choir for teens in grades 8 through 12. HaZamir provides Jewish high school-age teens the unique opportunity to gather together, sing Jewish choral music, build community and connect culturally. Because HaZamir is pluralistic and spans the denominations, it unites teens from throughout the spectrum of Jewish life and experience, reinforcing our Jewish commonality and enabling them to forge close bonds. Currently, there are 24 chapters nationally and in Israel and we are growing steadily. All chapters rehearse the same music starting in the fall, and in March we gather together at a hotel in the Catskills to rehearse for a weekend, culminating in a gala performance in Carnegie Hall. Running this chapter is very hard work for all. To see the joy in the faces of these teens as they sing their hearts out, throw their arms around their new Jewish friends from the US and Israel, and learn the music of our people, is one of the most rewarding things that I do as a cantor.