A fresh face – and voice – for High Holidays at Kehilat Shalom
The High Holidays are emotionally and physically rigorous by design, which is a challenging experience for even the most dedicated synagogue-goer. For Cantor Alexandra Weinstein, music is the key ingredient as she strives to help congregants come together to discover a renewed sense of inspiration.
“What excites me about the High Holy Days in particular is the theme of renewal. In reflecting upon our past, we can move forward,” says Cantor Weinstein. “The sounds of the Shofar during the High Holy Days are a much needed reminder to be present in order to deepen our awareness of ourselves and our environment: ‘Wake up! Now wake up again!’ Carving out a space for this kind of meditation in our daily lives, let alone during the High Holidays, is such a challenge. But every year we have an opportunity to come together for this common purpose, and in supporting each other, we find strength in ourselves.”
This year she joins Calgary’s Kehilat Shalom, to officiate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services alongside Rabbi Leonard Cohen and Calgary’s own Tsepora (Faye Steinberg). Cantor Weinstein – known as “Xan” to her friends – is a classically trained soprano based in New York City, and a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Brandeis University in music, theatre, and Hebrew as a second language. Currently in her fifth year as a cantorial soloist, she has travelled nationally (and now, internationally) leading the High Holidays, Shabbat services, and select festivals.
Her evolution into the role of cantor came naturally. “From a very young age, I was excited by the capacity of music and ritual to fuse mind, body, and community. The idea of a common spirit that transcends each individual person is miraculous, and to me, and music is a pure expression of that connectedness.”
New Family Service
In addition to its main High Holiday service, Kehilat Shalom is offering a new family service, which the Rabbi and Cantor will help co-officiate. According to Rabbi Cohen, “There’s a hunger amongst Jewish Calgarians, and young families in particular, for joyful and meaningful synagogue experiences. We want both a beautiful High Holiday service for all congregants, and an engaging experience for our kids and families. Cantor Weinstein brings the precise skills and energy to make this possible.”
With the passing of Cantor Rebecca Levant z”l this past year, Kehilat Shalom sought to engage a new cantor who could provide similar warmth and music leadership experience to the pulpit. According to Rabbi Cohen, “We are blessed to have Tsepora, with her amazing voice and spirit, to lead parts of the service, and we wanted an additional professional to join the team – Cantor Weinstein fits the bill.”
In her spare time, Cantor Weinstein enjoys outdoors pursuits, including hiking, skiing, and horseback riding. She will be coming to Calgary along with her fiance, Jared Weiser, and her parents – and they intend to take full advantage of their time here to visit Banff, watch the Equestrian tournament at Spruce Meadows, and sightsee around Calgary.
“I’m excited to join Kehilat Shalom, and looking forward to meeting the congregation.”