One Small Voice: A Letter to the Cantor from His Student

Cantor Gutman:

As an Early Childhood/Elementary Education Major, my peers (or as I like to call them: Future Colleagues) in my Education Cohort and I have been discussing how impactful certain T.V shows have been on our childhood. We were all over the place when naming shows from stations like Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. However, in the end, the station that we all loved was PBS and the show that all of us found the most impactful was none other than Sesame Street.

Sesame Street, in the middle of celebrating its fiftieth year, on PBS Kids, is that show you may have seen before filmed on an always bright and sunny street taken over  by an 8 foot Bird, Monsters who love anything from eating cookies to letters and counting, and Humans who spend their time making Bird Seed Milkshakes and helping solve everyday problems when they arise. Yes, Sesame Street is the show where if you need a way to respond to a child about heavy subjects, they have the answers. They want kids to learn that if they use some imagination and let nothing come in their way, then anything is possible. However, Sesame Street teaches a lesson, that my peers and I believe, no other T.V show teaches: Music and Song are important for everyday life and those that have enough confidence to raise their voice in song are those that make the most difference in their community and the World.

This lesson that Sesame Street has taught since the debut of the show in 1969, is one that, as your student, I have seen you live and preach on a daily basis. There is no other Cantor that I know of who is more dedicated to not only sharing the Nusach of Torah, Haftorah, Megillot and Prayer with a Congregation, but, at the same time wanting to teach it to a congregation so that they too can share their voice with not only the congregation and the community, but, with the Kadosh Baruch Hu.

It is your faith, knowledge and love in Nusach, Torah and traditional Judaism that makes myself and so many others feel uplifted and inspired. Thats why families like mine, all these years, have strived to get to services right at the beginning and attend more than Shabbat Services. Yes, we help make a Minyan. But, in the end, we get to be led in Prayer by someone that proves that through Tefillah, Individuals, the community and the world can be inspired to change.

A year ago, the world witnessed the mass shooting at the Tree Of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That following Sunday, the small chapel was filled with those who needed a lift in faith. It was your voice that provided that. Maybe it is Bashert that this Shabbat, a year after Pittsburgh, you will be the one leading the Kehilla and helping keep faith alive in a world where faith is easily lost. It is no surprise that the sun shines through the stained glass in the Main sanctuary when you’re done Davening because Hashem knows you follow and believe in the words of Ani Maamin: “I believe in the Sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love, even when there is no one there. I believe in Hashem, even when he is silent. I believe, I believe with perfect faith.”

Therefore, this Shabbat, the Shabbat of Parshat Beresheit, when we begin the Torah again, may we not only be inspired by your humility, passion and faith to commit ourselves to wanting to cling closer to everything Jewish, but, be reminded that through our “one small voice” we, too, can teach and inspire the world through song!

Siman Tov U’ Mazel Tov: May we only continue to be uplifted and inspired by you and be able to celebrate and appreciate the impact you have made on Shaarey Zedek, The Detroit Jewish Community,and K’lal Yisrael and the World for many more years to come!

Kein Yehi Ratzon: May this be Hashem’s Will!


Your Student

About the Author
Sam Arnold of Farmington Hills, a freshman at Western Michigan University, belongs to Congregation Shaarey Zedek, BBYO and USY. His goal is to one day be ordained a Conservative rabbi. Sam’s goal is to “live a life full of passion and meaning.” He has volunteered at Forgotten Harvest and, as a member of the Jewish Fund Teen Board, helped allocate grants totaling $50,000. He’s volunteered at the JCC, working with kindergarteners and first-graders and at the Hillel Early Childhood Center Day Camp as a counselor. He also serves as chair of the J-Serve Teen Board Committee. He runs cross-country and plays the viola in the school orchestra. He attended the JustCity Leadership Institute at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the AIPAC Policy Conference and the Schusterman Conference as a USY representative. He was the Torah Bytes Fellow for USY Central Region and Shaarey Zedek’s representative for Motor City USY. Sam has worked at CSZ, Aish Detroit and Adat Shalom teaching Hebrew to third-through sixth-graders, and recently helped a congregant learn to read Torah and Haftorah for her 50th bat mitzvah anniversary. He is a regular Torah reader, Haftorah reader and Megillah reader at CSZ. He started his own blog on Times of Israel so he could share his love of Torah and his thoughts with the world.
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