A double anniversary was celebrated recently at Congregation Ohr Shalom-Summit Jewish Community Center. A May 26 dinner-dance drew over 160 congregants to honor Cantor Janet Roth on completing 25 years of service to the synagogue and Rabbi Avi Friedman on his decade in its pulpit.
Longtime member and former congregation president Richard Barron served as the emcee for the evening, and Rabbi William Horn, the religious leader emeritus who has been affiliated with the synagogue for over 50 years, led the HaMotzi. When Janice Wilson, another member of long standing and past president, was thanked for chairing the event, she said, “It was absolutely my pleasure. It was a labor of love.”
The first of the event’s many toasts was made by Paul Zukoff, the only current congregant who served on both search committees that found Roth and Friedman. He offered his toast not to the honorees, however, but to the late Gene Baraff, who chaired the cantor search committee, and to Matthew Sills, who chaired the rabbi search committee. Zukoff highlighted the effort that each put into the process. “Without their diligence, management ability, and perseverance,” said Zukoff, “tonight’s celebration might have been very different.”
Congregants Jon Limmer and Nicky Chin praised the rabbi for being an inspirational leader and a good personal friend, and Barron sang a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the rabbi with his Bruce Springsteen take-off, “Born to Daven.”
The COS-SJCC choir, which was started by Roth more than 20 years ago, sang her praises with “The Sound of Nusach” (with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein). Sills paid tribute to her saying, “Cantor, we, as a congregation, have been the most fortunate of all, for you have brought together your love of Judaism and music and teaching with such passion and such commitment and such excellence.”
Expressing appreciation for the cantor’s having “inspired and taught and motivated all of us,” Sills added, “We can never truly thank you enough for all that you have done for our community.”
Acknowledging that “it is not common for a cantor and a rabbi to work at one congregation for so many years,” congregation president Pam Appel said, “The congregation feels extremely fortunate to have such successful relationships with its clergy.”
Roth came to COS-SJCC directly after her investment at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s H.L. Miller Cantorial School and has spent her entire career at the synagogue. Friedman came to the congregation after two shorter stays in pulpits in Atlanta and Pittsburgh.
Friedman told the gathering that “even though this party is supposed to be a celebration of the cantor’s 25 years and my 10 years with the congregation, it’s really about the community, which truly values its professional staff…. The number of years that we have served says as much about the community as it says about us.”
Roth closed her remarks by saying, on behalf of herself and the rabbi, “We hope we will be here for many, many more years.”