A Message from
Associate Cantor Peter Halpern
This congregation has fulfilled the very first commandment of the Torah “Be fruitful and multiply” to the extent that five clergy and a large, talented staff is not enough to support it. You have become increasingly aware that a second cantor is needed and the blessing of fulfilling that need has fallen on me.
Each of us is born into the world with a unique set of gifts, hopes, challenges and personality. We then begin to interact with our surroundings and life offers a rich panorama of experiences and the potential to gain knowledge from them all.
As a boy I sat for hours listening intently on a plastic record player to Prokofiev’s musical story “Peter and the Wolf.” In retrospect, as a musician and cantor, I was certainly drawn in by the music and sounds of the different instruments of the orchestra. The story though, while simple on the surface, is also a fascinating microcosm of any individual and the risks they can take to improve the lives of those around them, as well as their own.
In grade school I sang roles in musicals, then later in choirs. My ears were always attuned to languages and I thought for a time of becoming a language teacher. Going to a conservatory seemed to satisfy everything as I needed to learn and use four languages for singing. It was a great experience living independently for the first time and befriending others who were seriously “obsessed” with music.
There was another facet to my soul, though, that still was calling out. It was the quest to delve into the spiritual. This eventually led me to a part-time cantorial soloist position, next my first full-time job serving a congregation in the south and then on to the Hebrew Union College. Upon ordination I went to the Netherlands, where I served as cantor for 10 life-forming years. I enjoyed a wonderful social life and also had the opportunity to embark on many exciting musical endeavors outside the Temple walls.
Back in my homeland for many years and now a dad — the greatest of my blessings — life now brings me to Miami and Temple Beth Am. Several years ago, for a concert at my congregation in Newton, Mass, I wrote a parody on the Spanish song “Granada” entitled “An Ode to Summer.” Suffice it to say that, like many of you I’m sure, the cold winter weather will not be among the things I miss.
It is an exciting juncture in the history of this congregation and I am proud to be a part of it. Among the things I hope to bring to and experience with you is the elevation and inspiration of prayer and beautiful music.
“Tov l’hodot l’Adonai.” It is good to give thanks to God.
Cantor Peter Halpern