5 Little-Known Facts about High Holy Day Music

by Cantor Jonathan L. Friedmann, Ph.D.

ChoirThere is a general rule in synagogue music: the less frequent the holiday, the greater the desire to preserve its melodies. The High Holy Days have benefitted from this tendency. A handful of venerated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur tunes are treated as if they came from Moses himself. These so-called “Mi-Sinai tunes” actually emerged in Rhineland communities of southwestern Germany and northeastern France between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries. They include the familiar strains of Kol Nidre, “The Great Aleinu,” the “Ma’ariv tune,” sections of the Amidah, various settings of Chatzi Kaddish, and others. Although these special melodies are sung at special times, their rich history and unique properties teach us about the wider significance of music in Jewish life. (more…)

3 Things You Didn’t Know About the Dead Sea Scrolls
(and what we can learn from them today)

by Dr. Marvin Sweeney

The Dead Sea Scrolls, now on exhibit at the California Science Center, are one of the most important archeological discoveries for understanding Judaism in antiquity. Found in caves at a site called Qumran near the Dead Sea, they were written by a sect of Judaism known as the Essenes, who lived there from the 2nd century BCE to the war with Rome about 200 years later.


Purim Insights

by Cantor Fran Burgess

Redemption . . . Diaspora . . . Assimilation —

What do those words mean to us today?

When I think of the verb “to redeem”, I remember my mother bringing home “green stamps” with her groceries. We would lick them, put them in a book, add up their point values and redeem them for some prize in the catalogue—a real cause and effect, and such excitement to get “something we redeemed.” You save the stamps; you trade them in for something else that you want.


Chaplain Bob Lifson

Chaplain Bob Lifson was a man who loved simple things. Bobby – as he was called by almost everyone – loved his family, his friends and his home. A major source of both joy and strength to Bobby was his Judaism, and this was evident in his commitment to serving and being an active member of the Jewish community.


Ralph Mannheimer & Batya Malick

Batya & RalphRalph Mannhimer has been a member of the Board since its founding.  In addition to his years of service on the Board, Ralph agreed to serve as our Chief Financial Officer from 2008 until his retirement in 2014, overseeing several improvements to our financial systems as the Academy grew, went through the process of accreditation and was certified to obtain Federal loans for our students.  Here is how he describes his first encounter with AJRCA-to-be:

“About thirteen years ago, my friend, Rabbi, and teacher Stan Levy asked me to join him for lunch.  Stan asked me to serve on the Board of the Academy and I agreed. Thirteen years later I look back with a great feeling of personal satisfaction and accomplishment.  The Academy’s growth has been phenomenal – over 100 graduates from an accredited school!  It has been a labor of love to be associated with and to support the Academy financially.”


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.