July 21, 2019

Moving and Shaking: University Synagogue hires new cantor, Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy’s half marathon

University Synagogue recently hired Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro as its new cantor. 

Spencer-Shapiro, who succeeds Cantor Jay Frailich, has big shoes to fill. Frailich served 40 years at the Brentwood Reform synagogue before retiring in June.

Spencer-Shapiro, 44, said she has fallen in love with the job, which she began on July 1. “It just feels like I’m home here,” she said. 

Spencer-Shapiro holds a master’s degree in Sacred Music and received her cantorial ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She previously served at Temple Sholom in Broomall, Penn., and Congregation Adas Emuno in Leonia, N.J 

“From the first time I set foot into [University] synagogue, it was obvious that there are wonderful people who really care about the things I care about … [such as] social justice through prayer, through gemilut hasadim, [through] active compassion. It’s a very special place, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been chosen as their cantor,” Spencer-Shapiro said. 

She joins a clergy team that includes Rabbi Morley Feinstein and Rabbi Joel Simonds. The synagogue serves approximately 500 families.

Spencer-Shapiro was officially welcomed to her new community during a special Shabbat service on Aug. 1. Visit unisyn.org for more information.

Ryan Torok, Staff Writer

Mark Kligman. Photo courtesy of Mark Kligman

Mark Kligman was recently appointed the inaugural holder of the Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA.

“Let me put it to you this way: In the academic world, this is historic,” Kligman said. “I get to be the champion for Jewish music.”

Kligman said his interest in Jewish music was piqued when he was an undergraduate at California State University, Northridge, where he read a textbook on the history of Western music that changed the course of his life.

“I kept thinking to myself, ‘What’s the music of my heritage?’ ” said Kligman, who recently moved to California with his wife, Jessica

There was one feeble paragraph on the history of Jewish music in that textbook. Kligman knew there had to be more to explore, so he pursued a doctorate at New York University, with a focus on the ethnomusicology of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn. 

Although not Syrian — “I’m 100 percent Eastern European,” he said — it was close enough. He had found his niche. 

Ron and Madelyn Katz donated $1 million to help launch the program, which helps preserve and expand the study of Jewish music at UCLA. 

On behalf of his family, Ron Katz — son of Yiddish entertainer Mickey Katz — issued a statement, saying they were “thrilled” about Kligman’s appointment. 

“I am sure Dad [Mickey Katz] would be pleased.” 

Tess Cutler, Contributing Writer

Friendship Circle of Los Angeles Executive Director Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy runs for a good cause.  Photo courtesy of Friendship Circle Los Angeles

When Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy completed his first half marathon on July 27, it was far more than a personal achievement — it was a reminder that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. 

Rav-Noy is the executive director of the L.A. chapter of the Friendship Circle, an international nonprofit that builds relationships between special-needs children and teen volunteers. Rav-Noy’s chapter currently serves 120 Jewish children and has 341 volunteers. 

Several months ago, Rav-Noy discovered that a group of men was planning to run in the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon to raise money for the Friendship Circle. Moved, Rav-Noy decided to join them on their mission. 

“I was very, very touched,” he said. 

To prepare for the half marathon, Rav-Noy trained with his team members, Mazyar K. Shamshoni, Alon Asefovitz, Levi Benjaminson, Estee Yusevitch, Shainy Benjaminson, Yossi Goldberger, Sruly Yusevitch and Mushka Lowenstein. He started training with 2-mile runs and increased his distance in the weeks leading up to the event. 

Collectively, the team raised about $49,000 for the Friendship Circle, and Rav-Noy alone raised nearly $11,000.

For Rav-Noy, fitness is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. He swam regularly prior to adding distance running to his exercise regimen. 

“I think in the same way we need to do all [sorts of] other things, we need to take care of our body,” he said. 

The half marathon’s scenic, 13.1-mile route is the first half of the San Francisco Marathon route, which runs through Fisherman’s Wharf, across the roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge and ends in Golden Gate Park. Beyond the picturesque scenery, what Rav-Noy found especially inspiring was the support and encouragement the runners gave one another. Their generosity and altruism, he said, created a “microcosm” of how the world should ideally be. 

“When people want to, and they work on a common goal, suddenly a lot of the issues we have as a society fall away,” he said.

— Nuria Mathog, Contributing Writer

Rabbi Becky Silverstein. Photo by Jordyn Rozensky

Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center’s (PJTC) decision to hire Rabbi Becky Silverstein, who began approximately three weeks ago as the shul’s education director, represents a milestone for the Conservative shul. 

“It’s hard to quantify these things,” Silverstein said, but, he added, he believes he is one of the first trans-identified rabbis affiliated with the Conservative movement. 

“I’m really excited about being open and out, and being a role model,” Silverstein said. 

When he was being pursued for the position at PJTC’s Louis B. Silver Religious School, Silverstein said, “They listened and made an issue of it [only] in the right ways.” 

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater and executive director Eitan Trabin were especially proactive in welcoming Silverstein into the PJTC family. 

“I want to sing their praises,” Silverstein said. 

“This is a shifting and interesting time in the Jewish community, and I think Rabbi Silverstein is going to help us transition in ways that are forward-thinking,” Grater, head rabbi at PJTC and a longtime advocate for LGBT issues, said. 

Grater called Silverstein “a dynamic young rabbi.” 

Silverstein feels fortunate to be inheriting what he considers an especially solid program, established by previous director Debby Singer

“She did a really great job,” Silverstein said.

Prior to taking the position at PJTC, Silverstein lived in Boston for eight years, except for a nine-month stint in Israel. Silverstein said he is looking forward to being a role model and developing a creative space for his students. 

— Tess Cutler, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.