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Chazzan Cliff Abramson

Chazzan Abramson is truly excited and overjoyed to serve as the new senior clergy member of Temple Sinai. He began with Temple Sinai in 2006, after receiving his ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion School of Sacred Music. He has been responsible to the congregation for cantorial and many rabbinic duties such as teaching, giving sermons, pastoral counseling and leading life cycle events since the beginning of his association with the synagogue. Over the past 16 years here his knowledge, skills and compassion have made him the ideal spiritual leader of the congregation.

“Chazzan” (as he is known) denotes his ordination as a fully ordained clergy member from an accredited higher educational seminary, as opposed to that of a regular soloist. Music is what originally drew him to this work. He is a tenor who is as at home with the guitar as he is with a 50 piece orchestra, as demonstrated at a concert at the Van Wiesel a few years ago (please see links below).

He has sung on concert stages, in cantorial concerts and recitals across the country, and has also worked as a professional actor in theater, film and television. As a result of this, his leadership style of prayer on the bima is unique to Temple Sinai. It combines the unique ability to communicate through both joyful and reflective music, with a scholarly understanding of Jewish liturgy. 

Chazzan Abramson is a published composer and some of the music sung by our very vocally-engaged congregation are his original compositions. He believes that the connection between music and spirituality is the key to congregational well-being. The Torah tells us that when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, their spoken words alone were not enough to express their joy and their sense of wonder. So, they sang. We too can feel this way. All aspects of a synagogue, from Torah study to social interaction, must exemplify the harmony that exists in every well-constructed duet, symphony or time-tested musical invention, where all voices are heard. 

In all of his years of study of traditional texts, Chazzan Abramson has related most to the text from Rabbi Hillel in the Talmud.  When Rabbi Hillel was asked to explain the meaning of the Torah while standing on one foot he replied, “That which is hateful to you do not do to your fellow. The rest is commentary. Now go and study” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a).  The study of the Torah should be at the center of our lives, but Rabbi Hillel’s message meant more than simply following the “Golden Rule.” Study must lead us to the understanding that caring for each other is the goal for all learning. As a result of this, Chazzan Abramson has learned the importance of pastoral care and that is the heart of his work at Temple Sinai.

Whether he is teaching cantillation, synagogue ritual practice, prayerbook Hebrew or many other areas of interest to our congregants, he realizes that everyone’s individual needs must be addressed with completeness and thoughtfulness. Teaching, community, simchas (joyful moments) and crisis alike, Chazzan Abramson sees through the lens of care, often the reason one joins a synagogue. This includes his work with b’nai mitzvah students with different learning abilities. Known by others as the “B’nai Mitzvah Whisperer,” his special skills in this area have created positive experiences for children and adults. From helping families in critical times with matters pertaining to elder care and end of life decisions, to officiating at weddings for the same individuals whom he once sang to in our nursery school,  Chazzan Abramson has a long history of intergenerational connections with our families.

At the entrance of our sanctuary one reads a text from Psalm 96 “Shiru l’Adonai, shiru shir chadash,” “Sing a song to God, sing a new song.” While Temple Sinai is known as a “singing congregation” the deeper message is that we hope through your association with our synagogue that you find something new and fresh in everything you do.

“This is not my synagogue; it’s our synagogue. My goal is to listen to you and help lead you to the place your heart tells you that you wish to be.” - Chazzan Cliff Abramson

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyar 5784