Berlin cantorial school opens


A cantorial school in Berlin opened with a concert and workshops featuring international guests.

Saturday’s opening of the Jewish Institute of Cantorial Arts coincided with the annual Jewish cultural festival in the German capital.

In Berlin’s recently renovated Rykestrasse Synagogue, institute director Cantor Mimi Sheffer performed “Arvit LeShabbat” by Israeli composer Yehezkel Braun accompanied by choir and orchestra.

The new training facility for cantors is part of the Reform Jewish seminary, the Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam, founded nine years ago. The aim is to train cantors to lead services and provide religious education in congregations throughout Europe, the institute said in a news release. The institute plans to have close cooperation with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem.

Though the first four-year program is to begin a year from now, three students already are enrolled in a preliminary course.

Germany, whose official Jewish population has more than quadrupled to about 120,000 with the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union since 1990, is sorely in need of spiritual leaders. Fewer than 30 rabbis are available for some 80 synagogues, and even fewer cantors.

In September 2007, the Abraham Geiger College became the first institute to grant rabbinical certification in postwar Germany.

Cooperating with the new program is the School of Sacred Music at the Hebrew Union College-Institute of Jewish Religion in Jerusalem. Major sponsors are the California-based Breslauer Foundation, the Federal Government of Germany and the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

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