The conductor’s role is to know his community of musicians well: the ranges and skills of the voices in his choir and the qualities and potential of each instrument they play in his band. He needs to know the music and the space and most of all the listeners whom he hopes to transform.
Cantor Bernard is not only an exceptional musician whose gifts have lifted High Holidays, holidays and Shabbat services to the greatest heights for 18 years with his choral conducting, his composing of music for our teen band, and his mentoring teen musicians, Cantor Bernard has used his gifts to orchestrate our congregation to build community.
It was early in Cantor Bernard’s tenure when, with his vision, we decided to look not just at the music and liturgy of our Shabbat services but all the components of the experience. Sixty regulars turned into three hundred regulars. Year by year Shabbat evolved with food and fellowship beforehand; with space for kids to color; with teen voices and a teen band. With each passing week, month, and year Cantor Bernard put thought into the placement of each word, each reading, each power point slide, each song, each voice, each component of Shabbat so that each soul that entered Beth El would be lifted.
Cantor Bernard not only orchestrated community on Shabbat but in almost every program he led. Under his skilled pastoral leadership, the Caring Community created teams of support to surround those who were struggling with illness. Our RAIN (Regional AIDS Interfaith Network) Team and our Second Family Team truly became extended families to those whom they helped. Sacred moments of profound meaning were shared in our care partners’ final years, months and days.
His vision transformed one-on-one B’nei Mitzvah tutoring into a Beit Midrash, a house of study, where teens would teach upcoming B’nei Mitzvah. The power of connection keep even our college kids returning to that cacophonous room where chanting and connections and community thrive. Cantor Bernard’s program would become a national model for others to emulate.
From teaching with intention, to counseling with compassion, to, most of all, sharing his God given musical gifts of voice and on keyboard, in the quiet moments of our lives we will hear echoes of Cantor Bernard’s voice and song. The American historian Henry Adams wrote: A teacher affects eternity, you can never tell where influence stops. Cantor Bernard’s impact on Beth El will be felt for generations.
When we have seen Cantor Bernard conducting on a national stage at the URJ Biennial or in our community, we know that he is at his best and happiest and most animated when he uses his gifts to bring sound and souls together. He has made the music of Judaism come to life for us and within us.
To the performance of his role as Beth El’s Cantor and for his eighteen years exceptionally well done, with a standing ovation and with a thunderous applause we say thank you and we say, “Bravo!”