Marnie Camhi has gone “back to the beach,” returning to a new role as cantor at Temple Beth Miriam in seaside Elberon after a year-long break following the birth of her daughter.
From 2006 to 2008, Camhi served as the cantor at B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick. She then moved to Temple Shalom in Aberdeen, where she remained until 2011, when she left to take care of her baby.
Now at Beth Miriam, she succeeds Cantor Scott Borsky, who was at the congregation for two years.
“I am super excited to be going back to congregational life,” she told NJJN. “I really missed it.”
Camhi was not totally removed from Jewish professional activity during her year away from the bima. On Sundays, she taught second grade in the religious school at Har Sinai Temple in Pennington, something that was new for her. “In my work as a cantor, I’ve done music classes for all the different grades, so I worked with the primary grades, but never as the teacher, so that was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it,” she said.
In combining Judaism and music, Camhi told NJJN, the cantorate is perfectly suited to her; she said she knew she wanted to be a cantor at the age of 14.
Invested in 2006 at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion School of Sacred Music in New York, Camhi is a member of the American Conference of Cantors.
She received a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in vocal performance from Binghamton University in 2001 and a master’s degree in sacred music from HUC-JIR in 2005.
Camhi led her first service at Beth Miriam on erev Shabbat, July 20. Although inclement weather forced the annual seaside service indoors, the congregation did manage to follow it with a barbecue and picnic for the over 200 people who came to welcome Camhi.
Camhi will lead services on Friday nights and holidays and at Saturday morning b’nei mitzva services, teach music on Sunday mornings, and take part in congregants’ life-cycle events, she said.
Camhi has always been musically involved. She grew up in Suburban Temple (now Temple B’nai Torah) in Wantagh, NY, where she sang in the choir. She also sang in her school’s chorus and attended theater camps.
When she was in ninth-grade, she said, Suburban Temple hired Arlene Bernstein, the first woman cantor at the synagogue.
“Before Cantor Bernstein came, I never knew a woman could be a cantor, and she really took me under her wing and mentored me,” Camhi said. “I realized through her that if I wanted to become a cantor, I could put my two passions together, which were music and Judaism, and have a career.”
Camhi said that she hopes “to become an integral part of temple life and to get to know the congregation and have them get to know me and really be part of the fabric of the congregation.”
Camhi said she plans to introduce some new music in the fall through the congregation’s ShireiNew service, a Shabbat service with new songs.
The temple’s Rabbi Cy Stanway said he is “very excited and enthusiastic that Cantor Camhi will be a part of our Beth Miriam family.”
“I’m looking forward to working with her and I’m looking forward to having her bring her beautiful voice and attitude to Beth Miriam,” he said.