Cantor Robert Gerber – e-mail
According to a Chasidic tale, the Ladier rebbe once noticed a confused look on the face of one of his elderly congregants. He called to the man and said: “I can see that you do not understand my sermon. Listen to this melody, and it will teach you how to cling to God.” The rebbe began singing a song without words. It was a song of Torah, of trust and love for God. The old man listened and soon understood. This tale highlights the importance placed on music as a vehicle for communicating the values of our heritage.
As I was growing up I remember watching my father, Jesse, singing in our synagogue. He was hard to ignore because he would close his eyes, throw his head back and sing with an indescribable enthusiasm and passion. He never seemed to be self-conscious or even aware of his surroundings. The music always seemed to transport him into another spiritual realm. For my dad, the music wasn’t an intellectual exercise; it was a simple, unambiguous, sacred bridge to God. Is it any wonder then that having been influenced by my father’s musical involvement that both my brother and I to chose to become professional musicians?
I wouldn’t want you to be misled into believing that my father’s Judaic identity was one-dimensional. After he retired, people would often ask him: Nu, Jesse? So what are you going to do with your time now? Invariably his answer would be, “I would like to raise money for the synagogue and visit the sick more regularly.” And, that’s exactly what he did for the remainder of his life.
Music, prayer, Jewish communal involvement, concern for individual well being and involvement as an active supporter of כלל ישראל are certainly all cornerstones of the modern cantorate, of my cantorate. I visit hospitals, officiate at baby namings, guide b’nei mitzvah and celebrate the marriages of couples. I lead funerals and then shivah minyans. I balance my life around the life of the Congregation; rejoicing in the good times and crying during the sad times.
I guess one could reasonably say that, one way or another, I have consciously or unconsciously dedicated my life to living out my father’s dreams in congregational life. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be for a cantor? לדור בדור , from generation to generation, we will continue to honor and bless God’s holy name.