Cantor Jennifer Frost is a graduate of HUC-DFSSM 1999. She is the Senior Cantor at Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Illinois.
In what capacity have you volunteered for the ACC? Were you asked, or did you just raise your hand and say, “I’ll do it.”
I’ve been on the board since 2006 and have been the co-chair of Membership with Tracey Scher for the past six years. I’ve also been on the Youth Committee and I co-chaired the 2009 ACC-GTM Convention in Chicago with Ellen Dreskin in 2009. Co-chairing the ACC-GTM Convention with Ellen continues to be a highlight of my work for the conference. We wanted people to know and feel that each of us have something to learn from one another and that each of us have something to teach. I believe that the vision we had for that particular convention continues to fuel the work that I do for the conference today especially with regard to membership.
What is it about volunteering for ACC that is the most rewarding for you?
The ACC Executive Board continues to nourish my soul. The people that sit around our table are some of my dearest friends and colleagues and are individuals that I have grown to love and trust. Serving on our board has taught me much about listening and respecting others’ opinions especially when they differ from my own. The love and support of this group of people gives is just amazing.
In your experience, what’s the best thing about being a cantor?
Every day is different. I love the opportunity to talk with colleagues and with people of all ages as well as visit with those in need. Having variety in my job and the freedom to be creative makes my job even more fulfilling.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the cantorate now and looking into the future?
The synagogue and Jewish community need to be a relevant part of people’s lives. It is a challenge to figure out how to help our members find meaning and purpose in their daily lives and to help them find their Jewish identity. If we as leaders in the Jewish community don’t recognize the changes that are taking place around the world in the Jewish community, then our institutions will no longer be relevant. As cantors, it is my hope that we will be able to think out of the box and be at the forefront of helping our institutions continue to define how Judaism can be an integral part of their lives.
What influenced you to become a cantor and get into this business?
When I was a little girl, I used to go to shul with my grandparents. I have vivid memories of the huge stain glass windows in my grandparents’ synagogue in West Rogers Park. I remember running up and down the aisles of the synagogue, much like my daughter Lyla does now. My grandfather sat on the bimah as a baal t’filah, a master of prayer and sang in the choir. And I spent much of my time jumping between the pews and running up the bimah steps to sit on his lap. I was at home in the synagogue. I don’t remember the clergy, but I do remember my grandparents and their circle of friends and what it was to be a vital part of a vibrant synagogue and what it meant to have the synagogue as a vital part of who I was at my innermost core.
When I was nine, we moved from Chicago to California and my life changed. We became a part of Stephen S. Wise Temple and once again, I discovered what it meant to have the synagogue help make up the fabric of a person’s being. I went to the day school and I met Cantor Nathan Lam. He and the rest of the clergy were not out of my reach, they were right there before me, they were human beings, real people. Cantor Lam fostered my love of Judaism and Jewish music that had been implanted deep within my soul from my days in the synagogue with my grandparents. And while we studied our rich musical heritage together, I learned that being a Cantor was not just about singing, it was about being involved in the life of the congregation; it was about helping to guide the spiritual direction of the community and learning that this can be done through music, prayer, study or meaningful conversation. All of these done while in sacred partnership with one another and with God.
Tell us one thing about yourself that we don’t know but you’d like to share with us.
I used to ride horses. My father gave me an ultimatum to either ride horses or devote my life to music…guess which one I chose?
Cantor Jennifer Frost began her tenure at BJBE in July 2006 after several years of service as the Associate Cantor at Rodeph Sholom in New York City. She was born in Chicago and was raised in Los Angeles where she fostered her love of Jewish music under the direction of Cantor Nathan Lam at Steven S. Wise Temple and ultimately led to a Masters Degree in Sacred Music and Cantorial Ordination from HUC-JIR.
In addition to her work as a cantor, she sits on the executive board of the American Conference of Cantors where she is the co-chair of the Membership Committee. She is proud to represent the ACC on two URJ commissions: the Commission on Worship Music and Religious Living and the Campaign for Youth Engagement. Cantor Frost has performed and recorded with some of the shining stars of Jewish music today, most notably Danny Maseng and has been a part of his theatrical performance, Soul on Fire. Having recorded both Soul on Fire and Labor of Love, the group has toured throughout the United States. Cantor Frost is married to Rabbi Richard Prass and lives in Deerfield with their three children, Lyla, Ruth, and David.