Cantor Ellen Dreskin will join Rabbi Jessica Marshall on the bima at Temple Beth Or in Everett this High Holiday season.
Dreskin is the coordinator of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music Cantorial Certification Program at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Following in the late, great Friedman’s footsteps, Dreskin is nationally known for enlivening Jewish liturgical music and “re-energizing synagogue life,” according to a bio from HUC-JIR.
Marshall says the 130-family congregation loves music.
“Many of us connect to the Eternal, the transcendent, through song and music,” she said. “It’s important to provide that modality for people.”
The temple’s cantorial soloist moved out of state and enrolled in graduate school, leaving them with good song leaders and volunteers to lead Shabbat services, but no one to take on the hefty liturgical melodies of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
As it turned out, Dreskin was planning to be in the area as scholar in residence at Camp Kesher, an annual camp for local Reform congregations, on Vashon Island over Labor Day weekend, where she’ll be leading study and music sessions for adults. When she heard Temple Beth Or was looking for a cantor, “it just seemed to fit,” she said.
“I hope to integrate traditional and contemporary melodies to help the congregation to celebrate and to reflect, and to come together as a community in prayer and song,” she said. “I hope that the congregation will consider that I am also one who loves to pray, and I that am looking forward to us raising our voices together.”
While Dreskin is considered something of a star in the Reform music world, “that’s really not my style,” she said with a laugh. “It really is all about my leading the community, and not just starring or anything like that.”
Marshall hopes “to create a sacred space where congregants can connect to their own personal teshuva process, and also their communal connection through music and prayer.
“I think these are going to be very moving High Holiday services,” she said.