Cantors Celebrate Motherhood at Temple Emanuel Concert

Cantor Lindsay Kanter of Temple Emanuel. Kanter: Photo by Kevin Kennedy.

Three area cantors, all mothers, will sing together about motherhood at Temple Emanuel on May 13. The date, Mother’s Day Eve, is also the synagogue’s 70th anniversary.

Performing in “From Kvetching to Kvelling: A Musical Journey of Motherhood” will be Temple Emanuel’s Cantor Lindsay Kanter, Cantor Susan Bortnick of Washington Hebrew Congregation and Cantor Rachel Rhodes of Temple Rodef Shalom.

“I thought that tying a concert into the celebration of our 70th anniversary would be so magical, because music is such a valued element and such an integral component of our community,” explained Kanter. “It’s what makes our congregation so connected, so I thought that celebrating this monumental anniversary with a concert would highlight what makes our community so special.”

The idea for the maternal theme came after the decision to hold the concert on Mother’s Day weekend.
Cantor Susan Bortnick. Photo by Lacey Johnson

The cantors will perform the concert in three acts: one from the perspective of a child, one from a mother’s point of view and a final act focusing on other views of motherhood, such as women who cannot conceive.

Kanter said the cantors will face the stereotype of the Jewish mother head on. Demanding and overbearing, the Jewish mother dispenses guilt as she wraps herself in the cloak of a martyr.

Kanter said she, Bortnick and Rhodes with satirize the stereotype in songs such as “Where’s the Bathroom?” from the musical TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

“[The song] absolutely fulfills every stereotype there is about Jewish mothers, so it’s going to be a fun evening to embrace and poke fun at those stereotypes,” Kanter said.

The set list also includes songs from “Hairspray,” “Waitress” and “Ordinary Days,” along with traditional Hebrew songs.

Cantor Rachel Rhodes. Photo by Lacey Johnson

“In a concert like this one, we can take a wider view on the spirituality of music by bringing in different genres to express aspects of the theme — in this case, motherhood,” said Rhodes. “Participating in a concert like this one with fellow cantors … gives me a goal to work toward with my music. It is fun to step away from planning a service and find new music to fit the theme and to have the chance to workshop it with my colleagues.”

Kanter said the concert will give her congregants a chance to see her step out of the cantor’s role.

“I think they’ll get a big kick out of it,” she said. “It’s just an opportunity to show them a very different side of my art, and a different side of me as a person and as a cantor.”

Bortnick, of Washington Hebrew Congregation, said her approach to music has changed over her career.

“There are endless styles and genres of Jewish music from which to craft a service,” she explained. “When I first began my cantorate, I sang prayer renditions that were fairly traditional and/or formal. Over the past 22 years, I have learned guitar and experimented with bringing contemporary and folk communal singing and instruments into the synagogue’s repertoire.”

This is the first big concert that Temple Emanuel has done since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The cantors said their aim is to honor not only Temple Emanuel’s anniversary but also the families, and especially the women, who have been with the synagogue every step of the way. The event will also be doing a service to the community, with ticket sales going to the Global Mitzvah Projects and the Warren G. Stone Rabbinic Endowment Fund.

“Community is all about generational relationships,” Kanter said, “and our tight-knit community has always celebrated those themes.” ■

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