On Shabbat Shira FRS celebrated Cantor Zöe Jacob’s 10th year with us. The privilege and deep respect we have for her can be seen in the blessing by Rabbi Miriam Berger and the Sheva B’rachot from colleagues in America. Both of these show the incredible standing she has in the Reform world on both sides of the Atlantic.
Rabbi Miriam’s blessing
2 songs of shirat ha’yam, 2 styles of leadership, their beauty, their productivity, the creativity and the combined results are proved in the echo of their words and in the preservation of both traditions. The two songs don’t merge, they remain distinct to work in harmony together.
In 10 years, a blink of the eye when it comes to the history of British Reform Jewry, you taught us to hear, appreciate and love that echo. You taught us the importance of having two types of religious leadership side by side. You brought a second voice not just to FRS’s clergy but you gave the secret to the Movement and your influence is being felt so strongly in so many shuls now by the power of all that you have taught, through your initiative of Shirei Chagigah and moulding existing places like Limmud and RJ conferences. Your humility has allowed us to experience the gift of your teachers and colleagues, to ensure we understood the true echo, learning about the cantor as a role as well as your own individual exceptional qualities. You only do yourself down when you describe yourself as a “Singing Rabbi” as you have shown me that the cantorate adds so much more than a musical voice to that of the Rabbi. The cantorate that you model gives a depth to the understanding of each moment of tefillah, you give a shape and a journey to the whole prayer experience, you can connect us with millennia past or open our eyes to give meaning to the very instant we are in.
Ten years creating the harmonies of our individual leadership together has given me a friendship beyond words, a friendship no thank you would ever encapsulate, a friendship which blurs boundaries because it’s a beautiful presence in mine and Jonni’s lives and a gift which Ben has acknowledged since before he was born, responding only to your singing in utero and always knowing you as precious family. Ours is a friendship which provides a depth of support professionally, only joy personally and there is a trust between us which I could never replicate.
As you enter a new decade in this fabulous community it’s your chance to sing with us in joy:
I know you will get to see your students, your prodigies develop the British cantorate still further, creating more partnerships where the echo of two songs, two types of leadership complement and enhance the community’s experience of Judaism.
I know you will get to lead this community in the physical building it deserves so that when American guests come we no longer have to hear them battling with their confusion about the community they have heard so much about, been recommended from across the ocean, knew the cantor by repute and turn up to a shabby Shul without the chic.
I know that the last 10 years you have been building, working tirelessly to keep the momentum of change, growth and reach. So may this now be the decade of fulfilment for you as Cantor and you as Zöe. May your journey through parted waters, with our community, your family, and your incredible friends joining you in song, result in your feeling of reaching the Promised Land, a place of fulfilment, completeness, wholeness all with the knowledge that you are truly loved.
As Rollin said
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי, אֲשֶׁר נוֹתֵן לָנוּ בְּאַהֲבָה אֶת מְקוֹרוֹת הַבְּרָכָה.
Blessed are you Adonai who in love gives us Cantor Zöe Jacobs as a source of blessing in all of our lives.