November 24, 2005
Cantor Glickman Returns to Israel
Cantor Binyamin Glickman, who taught generations of Los Angeles children to love God through music, is returning home to his beloved Jerusalem.
Ask him what he will see from his flat there and the 70-year-old smiles.
"The cemetery of Mount Olive, where grandparents are buried and my [first] wife is buried and I will be buried," he said." His view also includes the building that housed the old British Mandate offices, a place he walked by as a child in Palestine.
Glickman is not going back to retire but to direct the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Music. Aside from that, his grandfatherly wisdom is sought.
"'The family needs you,'" Glickman said, repeating what his grown children have told him. Thirty-five of his 44 grandchildren live in Israel.
Glickman will leave behind a Los Angeles community of Jews he has known and taught since 1960, when he began a 22-year stretch as cantor at Beth Jacob Congregation, an Orthodox shul on Olympic Boulevard in Beverly Hills. He returned to Israel in the early 1980s, but by 2001 he was back in Los Angeles at Congregation Mogen David, the Pico-Robertson Orthodox shul that sits across the street from the Museum of Tolerance.
"Generations of bar mitzvah students were taught by him," said Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, dean of the rabbinical school at the Academy of Jewish Religion, where Glickman also teaches. "Cantors in shuls in Pico-Robertson were all taught by Cantor Glickman at some point."
"Everybody loves this guy," said Cantor Nathan Lam of Bel Air's Reform synagogue, Stephen S. Wise Temple, and dean of the Jewish academy's cantorial school. "He's a special human being. He makes a room feel good. If you're sick, he's the guy you want to come and cheer you up."
On Nov. 30, Glickman's synagogue will stage a community farewell concert in his honor hosted by longtime TV producer Sol Turtletaub of "Sanford & Son" fame. Glickman sang at Turtletaub's son's bar mitzvah -- one of thousands of religious events graced by his tenor.
"I have [taught] hundreds of kids who know how to sing, know how to pray," Glickman said.
Expected to attend are old friends, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who knew Glickman decades ago when both were active in the movement to help Soviet Jews.
Glickman's late wife also was involved in that movement and demonstrated repeatedly at the Soviet consulate in San Francisco. "Hundreds and hundreds of Jews came out of Russia because of my wife," he said.
A fifth-generation Jerusalemite, the gregarious Glickman got behind a microphone early. As a boy in Palestine during World War II, he won an audition to sing the jingle that introduced the BBC's daily Hebrew-language broadcast. After finishing his musical studies in 1955, he conducted choirs before moving to Los Angeles in 1960.
He interrupted his career in Los Angeles to return to Israel to fight in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Glickman left Congregation Beth Jacob in 1982 to live in Israel. During his 10 years there, he set up the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Music and served as director of the separate Jewish music center at the Gush Etzion settlement near Jerusalem. He twice visited Russian Jews in the 1990s and compiled a 1991 Hebrew-Russian songbook.
With his children grown, Glickman returned to the United States in 1992.
Cantors, he said, are paid poorly in Israel, but they can make a living in America.
Glickman worked in Connecticut from 1992 to 2001 as cantor at Congregation Agudath Shalom in Stamford; his wife died in 1994. In 2001, he accepted his position at Mogen David.
Come December, he'll reside in Israel with his second wife Shifra, 62, who will take Ulpan courses to learn Hebrew.
He is proud of his work with Soviet Jews and proud that he fought for Israel, but his work as a conductor and cantor are what will stay with him.
"I transmitted the Jewish musical experience to a whole generation here," he said, "to bring them closer to God."