Andrew Bleckner

2006Psalm 116
Andrew Bleckner studied composition with George Crumb at the University of Pennsylvania, and received a PhD in composition in 1995. While there he also received the Paul Rochberg Fellowship, and The Helen L. Weiss Prize for Vocal Music. Currently he is Resident Composer for the Singing City chorus of Philadelphia. Around 1994, he began a spiritual and artistic transformation inspired by the writings of Rabbis Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Michael Lerner. Since then, his primary musical inspiration has come from sacred texts. His setting of Psalm 150 has been performed throughout the US including venues such as the 2006 American Choral Directors Association Southern Convention and the Zamir Chorale of Boston 2006 Spring Concert. His setting of Psalm 42 recently received Honorable Mention in both the Vanguard Premieres Choral Composition Contest and the First Annual Meistersingers Choral Composition Competition. He has received composition awards, grants, and fellowships from ASCAP, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the American Composers Forum, the University of Pennsylvania, and the MacDowell Colony.

Emil Berkovits

2004The Peace of Jerusalem • Avinu Shebashamayim
Born in Czechoslovakia, Cantor Emil Berkovits represents the fifth generation of cantors in his family. As a child soloist, he performed in concerts, operas, and the Yiddish theater, and with his father and brother in concert. Educated at McGill University Conservatory ofMusic, he attended and later taught at Mishkan T’fillah Academy’s Cantorial School. He writes much of his own music, and influences on his work, besides his father, are Hazzanim Moshe Koussevitzky andJoshua Weider. Cantor Berkovits has held positions in Chicago, Montreal, and Omaha and now serves Temple Israel in Swampscott- Marblehead, Massachusetts. He is a member of the Cantors Assembly of America, where he received his commission in 1985, and in 1994 was designated as honorary Fellow of the Cantors Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

David Berkenbilt

2006Hanukkah, Nes Gadol • Hanukkah Light
David Berkenbilt began creating musical arrangements while a member of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School a cappella choir. He is a 1962 graduate of Georgetown Dental School with an MS in pediatric dentistry from Northwestern University. While in private practice in northern Virginia, he sang with The Choral Arts Society of Washington and several area synagogue choirs. Then, inspired by a music theory class he attended on visiting day at his son’s college, he decided to return to school, graduating in 1995 from George Mason University with a degree in composition. Now retired from dentistry, he spends much of his time in theater. He also sings with the Ohr Kodesh Chorale under the direction of P’nina McCabe, where his setting of Ki Hiney Ka Khomer has been heard during the High Holidays. His string quartet was a winner in the Prince Georges Symphony 30th Anniversary Chamber Music Competition. Hanukah Lights and Hanukah Nes Gadol won awards in the Amadeus Choir of Toronto’s annual Christmas/Chanukah song competition.

Natan Berenshteyn

2006Le Dor va Dor
Natan Berenshteyn was born in Kishinev, Moldova and started to play piano at about age 6. He graduated from Kishinev College of Music in classical piano, and from Moldova State Institute of Art with a graduate degree in jazz piano and conducting. He also received degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University in Music Education (undergraduate) and classical piano (graduate). For the past seven years he has been choral director at Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond, Virginia.

Sariel Beckenstein

2006Tefilah ‘Atikah
A native of Tel Aviv and a resident of New York City since 1985, Sariel Beckenstein has been composing since the age of 18. His professional acting debut was in Fiddler on the Roof with the Cape Town Opera Company in 1984. He can be heard on the soundtrack of the DreamWorks feature film, The Prince of Egypt. He has performed his one-man musical biography, The Songs That I Shlepped, in Israel and New York. He has served as cantorial soloist at congregations Beth Simchat Torah in Manhattan, and Tehillah in Riverdale, New York. His passion for the music of Israel has led him to perform with lyricistsYoram Tehar Lev and Ehud Manor, and at recent tributes to Manor, Naomi Shemer, and Uzi Hitman. He is well known as an Israeli dance leader and teacher, and has been performing at weddings and other simchas since 1998.

Steve Cohen

 2008Yedid Nefesh  2006Hashkiveinu

Steve Cohen received his training at the Manhattan, Juilliard and Eastman Schools of Music, and has composed a large catalog of symphonic, chamber, liturgical and musical-theater pieces, including the operas The Cop and the Anthem and La Pizza Del Destino. His orchestral composition Juggernaut won the 2004 Composer’s Award given jointly by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Museum in the Community. His vocal settings of Psalms 84 and 121 took first and second prizes in the 2006 Susan Galloway Sacred Song Award contest, and his setting of Hashkiveinu (chosen for the 2006 Shalshelet Festival) won an award from the New York Treble Singers in 2007. He has arranged and orchestrated numerous scores for orchestras, touring shows and other performing groups. He is a member of New York’s Zamir Chorale and is active in the musical life of Larchmont Temple (where, among other things, he plays Haman each year in the Purimshpiel).

Michelle Auslander-Cohen

With a mother who devoted her life to teaching music in synagogues, and relatives at the core of Jewish Music Education in the Chicagoland area, it was “beshert” that Michelle Auslander-Cohen follow a similar path. Along the way she pursued opera studies, earned a Performers Diploma from Indiana University, and received numerous awards as a singer. Her first experience as cantorial soloist was at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. She spent two years as the soprano in a high holiday quartet with internationally acclaimed cantor/opera singer Benjamin Warschawski at B’nai Torah in Boca Raton, and served as cantorial soloist for Temple Judea in Palm Beach Gardens, both in Florida. For the past five years she has been an Adjunct Voice Instructor at Florida International University. She has given numerous concerts throughout Florida and Chicago, in genres ranging from Broadway to opera, and Yiddish to cantorial music. She has recently discovered a passion for composing settings for Jewish prayers and poems. She is a member of the Women Cantors’ Network, the Guild of Temple Musicians, and the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

Gerald Cohen

2013│We Are Loved by an Unending Love
Cantor Gerald Cohen received a B.A in music from Yale University and a D.M.A in composition from Columbia University. He is Cantor at Shaarei Tikvah Congregation in Scarsdale, N.Y. and is on the faculty of the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of The Jewish Theological Seminary and the Academy for Jewish Religion.  The recipient of many honors, including the Cantors Assembly Max Wohlberg Award for distinguished achievement in the field of Jewish composition, his compositions have been published by Oxford University Press, G. Schirmer/AMP and Transcontinental Music. His cd Generations is on the Composers Recordings, Inc. label. His opera Steal a Pencil for Me, based on a true concentration camp love story, premieres in concert in New York this April.

Rick Calvert

2010Va Y’daber Elohim 2006Kumi, Ori
Rick Calvert is a folk musician and cantorial soloist/temple musician who turned to composing modern settings for liturgical text in 1997. His compositions and performances reflect his musical roots in folk/rock and choral music. His inaugural CD, Journeys, was produced through the encouragement of Fran Avni at CAJE 24; a second CD is expected in 2011. He has taught music at the Temple Beth Tikvah Religious School in Madison, Conn. since 1986, and currently serves as cantorial soloist/temple musician there; at Congregation B’nai Jacob in Woodbridge, Conn.; and at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, N.J. His Yis-m’chu was selected for inclusion in Celebrate Shabbat; his Shehecheyanu was selected for use at the 2001 ordination ceremony for cantors and rabbis at Hebrew Union College-Jewish institute of Religion in New York; and his Kumi, Ori was honored at Shalshelet’s 2006 Festival. He has performed extensively in the Northeast and was a featured evening performer at CAJE.

Seth Chalmer

2010Ve erastikh Li/Anah Dodi
Seth Chalmer grew up in Montpelier, Vt. and received a BFA in Acting/Musical Theatre from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Acting credits include Professor Art /Oscar the Grouch on a national stage tour of Sesame Street Live, and various roles at Vermont and New Hampshire regional theaters. He taught acting at Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton, and was Cultural Arts Director of the Dayton Jewish Community Center before moving to New York to work as a Retention Specialist for the Center for Employment Opportunities, helping men and women returning home from prison to succeed in careers. Currently pursuing graduate studies at New York University’s Wagner-Skirball Dual Degree Program in Judaic Studies and Nonprofit Management, he also works as a Project Assistant for the Berman Jewish Policy Archive.

Jonathan Comisar

2013│Shalom Rav • To Number Our Days
Cantor Jonathan Comisar began his music career as a piano student in the preparatory department of the Eastman School of Music in his native Rochester, New York. He continued piano and music theory studies at Oberlin, and after graduation studied composition with David Del Tredici.  An invested Cantor with a Masters in Sacred Music from Hebrew Union College School of Sacred Music, he served as the Cantor of Community Synagogue in Rye, New York from 2002 to 2008. He currently teaches courses on music theory, arranging, and composition at HUC and is active in the Lehman-Engel BMI Musical Theater Workshop in New York City as composer/lyricist. His musical, Things As They Are, won Best of the Festival Audience Favorite Prize at the New York Musical Theater Festival, 2010. His musical Cynthia and the Dreadful Kite will be produced in the 2014-15 season by Vampire Cowboys, an Obie Award winning theater company,

Erik Contzius

2008And Hannah Prayed
Raised in Parsippany, New Jersey, Cantor Erik Contzius has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Rutgers College and a Master of Sacred Music from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred Music. His original works for the synagogue, Hineh Ma Tov and Shalom Rav, have been published by Transcontinental Music, and he also has a large self-published catalogue. His music appears on several recordings, including How Excellent is Thy Name, a collection of Jewish art music for solo cantor and pipe organ. He recently performed in Munich at a concert of Vergessene Musik—The Forgotten Music of the German Jewish Reform Movement. He has also performed at the Leo Baeck Institute’s Jewish Vienna and Germany concerts, at the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage, and at the International Organ Festival in Goteborg. He served as Composer-in-Residence at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester, and as cantor at Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park and Temple Israel of Omaha. He is currently the Cantor of Temple Israel of New Rochelle.

Daniel Cousin

  2006Lekha Dodi
Daniel Cousin began his spiritual musical journey while an undergraduate at Harvard University, where he founded Charvard Chai Notes while earning a degree in cognitive neuroscience. He played at simchas from New York to New England, which he continued to do while at Albert Einstein Medical School. He amassed a collection of more than 100 instruments from around the world which he taught himself to play and began incorporating into his compositions. He worked in the hospital by day, while at night he performed at clubs around New York City with his group My Cousin’s Band, and became the house pianist for late night jazz sessions at Smalls in the West Village. He is currently a radiology resident at Yale’s affiliated residency, and performs with his wife, singer Laura Lenes. ( and

Terry Horowit

2008Tov LeHodot • Da’ • Ohila La-El
2006Shalom Rav • Bidvaro
2004El Adon • Ilu Finu • Neshama Shenatata Bi
Cantor Terry Horowit taught herself guitar at the age of 10 and started writing folk songs a couple of years later, continuing to compose for guitar and voice through graduate school at Brown University. After a hiatus of many years, her lifelong love of folk music combined with a profound respect and appreciation for Hebrew text led her to begin composing settings for prayers and liturgical texts. Her music has been chosen for all three Shalshelet Festivals. She completed the cantorial certification program at Ma’alot Seminary in Rockville, Maryland where for 15 years she tutored b’nei mitzvah and taught adult classes in cantillation and aspects of Jewish practice. She also was lead vocalist with the performing group Shalshelet (not affiliated with the Shalshelet foundation). In 2007, Terry moved with her family to Albany, New York where she is now the process of establishing herself as a teacher of trope and nusach, meeting local musicians, and creating a new performing group.  In Fall 2010, she fulfilled her dream of recording her original songs with the release of two debut albums, Zimrat Enosh and Bidvaro.

Katy Jordan

2008Ma’ariv Aravim with Robbi Sherwin
Katy Jordan, an Austin, Texas native, is a kinesiology major and athletic trainer at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and hopes to be one of the few professional female athletic trainers in the NBA. She is one of very few Jewish students at her large university, which has made her very strong and extremely proud to be Jewish. She is thankful to her parents for sending her to Greene Family Camp for Living Judaism in Bruceville, Texas, and is also grateful to Birthright Israel for the opportunity to experience her homeland. She cut her musical teeth playing trombone for 6 years, and she fondly remembers singing to Debbie Friedman’s Live at the Del CD during long road trips to Colorado on family vacations. She and her mom, Robbi Sherwin, have collaborated on three songs together; one is the title cut on Sababa’s first CD, Pray for the Peace. She was 13 years old when she co-wrote Ma’ariv Aravim.