Congregants of all ages came to Sinai Temple’s main sanctuary on June 10 to welcome the newest member of the clergy, Cantor Marcus Feldman, who officially took over as the congregation’s senior cantor on July 1. Feldman’s first concert, performed with Sinai Temple Cantors Joseph Gole and Arianne Brown, was designed to showcase his diverse musical background, including Hebrew, Ladino and Italian songs.
“I wanted to give Sinai Temple an opportunity to share in my passion for Jewish music,” he said, explaining his choice of songs by great Los Angeles Jewish composers as well as some of his own teachers. Feldman said he sees his work as a “solemn responsibility to preserve our incredible musical tradition and to facilitate its continuity within the context of 21st century Judaism.”
A Los Angeles native, Feldman grew up at Stephen S. Wise Temple singing on the High Holy Days and helping to lead Friday night services. But it wasn’t until his junior year of college that Feldman was encouraged by his mentors, Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin and Cantor Nathan Lam, to become a cantor.
After graduating from USC in 2007 with dual degrees in Vocal Performance and Business Administration, Feldman was ordained as a cantor by the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, in May 2011, where he earned a Masters of Jewish Sacred Music. Feldman said he continued his training with Cantor Lam from 2005 onward.
Although just 28, Feldman already has served in a number of prior cantorial positions throughout California, leading services at Sun City Jewish Services in Palm Desert, and as cantorial intern for four years at Stephen S. Wise Temple, before becoming second cantor there, for a year, until his move to Sinai.
Trained in opera, Feldman traveled to Jerusalem two years ago to study under Cantor Naftali Herstik, a 14th-generation traditional cantor. “I learned how to better improvise within the context of the prayer modes, to paint emotions with the words.”
Sinai’s Senior Rabbi David Wolpe lauded Feldman’s “deep knowledge of Jewish musical tradition,” adding that “he’ll bring a wonderful energy to our services and programs.”
“I come to the community as a representative of the newest generation of cantors,” Feldman said. “It is my humble duty to ensure that the incredible 1,000-year-old musical tradition of Ashkenazic music and the 100-year tradition of music at Sinai Temple will continue to thrive and be a central part of Jewish life.”
“He’s an exceptionally mature person for someone of his years,” Wolpe said.
Cantor Gole will continue to serve Sinai in the new position of Cantor Emeritus.
Feldman said he will be working closely with Wolpe throughout the summer to prepare for the High Holy Days and will also play a role in continuing Sinai’s “Friday Night Live” programming, working with Wolpe and Craig Taubman.