ACC Welcomes New Cantors and Rabbis at HUC-JIR Ordination

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ACC Welcomes New Cantors and Rabbis at HUC-JIR Ordination

Cantor Claire Franco


Cantor Claire Franco, ACC Vice President of Internal Policy & Administration, delivered an ordination address at the 2018 HUC-JIR graduation in New York.

I am deeply honored and humbled to stand before you on behalf of the American Conference of Cantors.  We welcome you, our newest Cantorial colleagues and share your joy as you reach this awesome and amazing milestone in your lives.  To your Rabbinic colleagues and to your families and your friends, we wish you Mazal Tov as well.  Today we struggle to find the right words.  This day so full of joy is darkened by our sudden and tragic loss. 

We spend much of our lives perched precariously on the fulcrum of the scales of joy and sorrow struggling to find balance.

The truth is, as clergy, you will have many days like this.  This life’s calling will give you days where great personal joy will collide dramatically with deep collective sadness.  And days where you will be called to celebrate with your community when you, yourself are struggling. You are prepared for these days.  You can and you will dig deep into your soul, gather your strength and sing your hearts out.  An American Novelist, said “Music isn’t just a pleasure, a transient satisfaction. It’s a need, a deep hunger; and when the music is right, it’s joy. Love. A foretaste of heaven. A comfort in grief. Is it too much to think that perhaps God speaks to us sometimes through music?”

Last night, as social media filled with memories and pictures, my year in Israel class found solace in the virtual community of our group chat.  You are the class of 2018 and no matter how far you land from each other, no matter how diverse your paths become, no matter how different your individual cantorates may be, you are bound together by this collective identity.  Today, you make the transition from classmates to colleagues but you remain friends. Rely on each other, encourage and support each other.  You have travelled a marvelous journey to this day and like siblings, you have experiences and memories that only you share.  This is a gift. And it will continue to sustain you in the years to come. 

And so now you trade classrooms for offices, and you, my cantors will create new choirs from new voices that will work so hard to sing along with you.  You will have, what I refer to as Dr. Seuss Oneg Shabbats. You sing too fast, you sing too slow, you sing too high, you sing to low, you sang a song I did not know. But understand that these people who comment on your music are trying so desperately to connect to you and to speak your language.  As you set out to new places, you will carry your unique gifts to the communities that can’t wait to welcome you. And those interesting oneg conversations, they will find their balance too. You will have moments when you look up from your lecturn and see, in the back a row of 12 and 13 year olds dancing in their seats to the right rythm, or when you notice someone’s gaze transfixed on you as you sing a melody of their past, or see that someone with a single tear rolling down their cheek. Let these powerful moments remind you of the gift you have been given with this sacred calling- the ability to connect people to all that is meaningful and beautiful about Judaism and to bring them closer to God with your voice and with your soul.  To paraphrase a lovely Rabbi that I spoke with this morning.  He said, “I don’t have the words, but I think maybe you have the melody, and maybe that’s a better gift.” 

You have your melody, you have your gift.  Go out and share it with the world.  Mazal Tov.