Rabbi Joseph Levine

by Naomi Vanek

N.Vanek - Levine Pres LobbyRabbi Joseph Levine was the thirteenth child of immigrant parents from Russia.  He grew up in a traditional home in Pennsylvania.  As a young man, however, he came under the influence of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, who represented for him an American rabbi, living out his ancient heritage in a modern democratic nation.  America was a marvel to my father and its heroes were real to him.  Rabbi Wise encouraged his ambition to become a rabbi.

When the Jewish community of Texarkana asked him to be their rabbi in the 1950s, it was a marriage made in heaven.  They were becoming more open and American, including developing relationships with the Christians of Texarkana. My father reached out to all, and they welcomed him in turn.  The Jewish and Christian groups met in synagogues and churches, shared ritual and symbolism, and learned the value of each other’s traditions without fear.


Reflections on Cantor William Sharlin

by Cantor Jonathan L. Friedmann, Ph.D.

Cantor William Sharlin’s biography is in some ways the story of the American cantorate. He was a member of the first graduating class of the first cantorial school in America: the School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College (HUC), and a founding member of the American Conference of Cantors. He is recognized as the first professional Jewish camp song leader, and the first to play a guitar in the synagogue. He was one of only a handful of cantors with an advanced degree in composition (Manhattan School of Music). He developed the Department of Sacred Music at HUC in Los Angeles, and taught there for fifty years. He trained women to be cantors before they were allowed into the seminary. His nearly forty years at Leo Beack Temple were among the most musically inventive in the history of the cantorate.