Cantor Alyssa Rosenbaum

Cantor Alyssa Rosenbaum will conduct her first High Holy Days services since joining B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike this summer. 

Cantor Alyssa Rosenbaum first felt the call to the cantorate when her hometown cantor invited her to be a soloist for the High Holy Days following her undergraduate program, saying it felt right to be up there on the bimah.

Growing up in Northbrook, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, she attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., where she majored in German and minored in linguistics. After talking with her cantor about what the cantorate entails, he encouraged her to look into the Academy for Jewish Religion California in Los Angeles, where her father grew up and other family members remain, and she decided to make the move.

“I can’t even think of a time when music wasn’t a big part of my life, and Judiasm, too,” Rosenbaum, the new cantor at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, told the Cleveland Jewish News. “My dad would always take me with him to shul. I always say, I don’t know if he took me because I loved it, or if I loved it because he took me. I think it was our special bond that we shared in my family.”

Rosenbaum, 31, is the youngest of four children and is happy to be back in the Midwest, not far from her hometown and family. She began her tenure at B’nai Jeshurun in July and lives in Lyndhurst.

“What drew me to B’nai Jeshurun is, like I said, that Midwestern mentality felt so much like home to me, and certainly it’s a perk that this is within driving distance of my family who are still in Chicago,” she said. “And it felt like the right place that I wanted to be to start settling down and establishing roots for myself.”

To welcome her to the community, B’nai Jeshurun held events for congregants and Rosenbaum to meet and become acquainted such as ice cream socials and morning hikes. She also sang the national anthem Sept. 12 at Progressive Field as the Cleveland Guardians took on the team from her former home, the Los Angeles Angels.

Rosenbaum plans to bring her interests and what she has learned from her previous three synagogues to her work with B’nai Jeshurun. Previously while in California, she worked at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles for three years, Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita for two years, and Temple Sinai of Glendale since June 2020.

While she does not plan to make many immediate changes and plans to learn from Cantor Aaron Shifman’s approach while he works through the High Holy Days as his last hurrah before leaving the Conservative synagogue after 24 years, she does wish to update a few things including introducing the web application, Mitzvah Tools, to the b’nai mitzvah students, parents, tutors and clergy. One of Rosenbaum’s goals is to reach others in her demographic of those in their 20s and 30s, and connect with all the reasons why people join a Jewish community, whether it be spiritual, educational or social.

“Ideally, the role of the cantor is connected to all of those pieces, so it’s just a question of finding the right way to connect to everybody in the community through all of that,” she said.

As a bibliophile, cook, artist, singer and linguist, Rosenbaum is looking for opportunities to connect with the community and boost involvement using her many interests, from cooking Jewish foods with kids to studying extinct Jewish languages with others with similar interests.

“There’s just a lot of different opportunities between all of the age groups in the congregation and all of the interest groups that we have here,” Rosenbaum said. “I’m really looking forward to sharing that aspect of myself with the community.”

While she grows into the role and with the community, another goal she has down the line would be to make her own Jewish ritual objects to hiddur mitzvah, make the commandment more beautiful, and connect more on a personal level. While that project may take some time and the development of new skills, one thing Rosenbaum is currently focused on is her debut album, she said.

She first found herself writing original Jewish music while she was learning guitar in her first semester of cantorial school, a requirement for cantors at the time. Sometimes she starts with the music and finds the best piece of text to fit, or she’ll take the text and try to unlock it in a meaningful way to get to the core of the meaning.

“There’s different ways into prayer for everybody, but that’s an organic and authentic way that it started coming to me,” Rosenbaum said. “And if it speaks to other people, too, then that’s why I would want to share it with people.”

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