By Laura Porter
“How do we connect to the Judaism in our souls?” asks Cantor Rachel Reef-Simpson, who came to Temple Emanuel Sinai in Worcester last July as Cantorial Soloist and Family Engagement Coordinator. “There is something that sparks each of us in exploring Judaism, whether we are born Jewish or a Jew by choice, or explore Judaism. There is something that makes us connect.”
On April 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Emanuel Sinai, she will explore those connections in an evening of song entitled, “Soundtrack of our Souls: Women’s Voices in Jewish Music.”
In company with five musical friends, all cantors or cantorial soloists, and backed by a band and a choral ensemble, she will present the music of both American and Israeli singer-songwriters.
The “artists whose work I am privileged to sing” include American songwriters Debbie Friedman, Sue Horowitz, Beth Schaefer, Peri Smilow and Julie Silver as well as Chava Alberstein, Noa, Yehudit Ravitz and Naomi Shemer from Israel, she says.
In selecting the music, she has been ever mindful of the vast differences in the ways in which people are drawn to Judaism. And she emphasizes that she is talking about Jews and non-Jews alike.
“And so, within the framework of women’s voices, both their messages and their music, I have created a concert that explores all of these ways that we connect to Judaism in our soul through the music of these women,” Cantor Rachel says.
The evening will be her senior recital in fulfillment of her cantorial certification at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. (She will formally graduate from the program on May 4.)
At the April concert, she will be joined by Sharon Brown Goldstein and Lisa Marcus Jones, cantorial soloists at B’nai Shalom in Westborough; singer-songwriter, Sue Horowitz; Cantor Jeri Robins, Congregation Beth Israel, Worcester; and Cantor Louise Treitman, her mentor and coach, cantor at Beth El Temple Center in Belmont.
“These women are among the most inspiring, spiritually connected and supportive and loving women,” she says. “It’s an honor and a privilege for me to have the opportunity to sing with them and to celebrate this milestone with them.”
“And I’m very fortunate to have a rockin’ band at Temple Emanuel Sinai,” she says. “They are spirited and energetic and so supremely talented. And I’m glad they adopted me.”
Members of the band include Peter Allard (guitar); Joey Demarais (drums); Harvey Gould (clarinet); Lisa Marcus Jones (musical director, piano); Phil Katz (mandolin and violin); Becky Pins (flute); and John Webster (bass) in addition to the cantor’s sons, Alex Simpson (guitar) and Ian Simpson (vocals).
The choir will include members of the Temple Emanuel Sinai choir, with whom Cantor Rachel has made “a really deep connection in the eight months” she has been in Worcester, as well as some members of the choir from Temple Etz Chaim, her former congregation in Franklin.Her recital on April 2 is “a labor of love” that has resulted from her four years of hard work and study.
The concert is free and open to the public. A festive oneg will follow.
CAP: Cantor Rachel Reef-Simpson