Congregants of Temple Beth Sholom joined together for a weekend of celebration in honor of Cantor Sergei Schwartz's 10th year of service and music at the synagogue.
Temple members and the cantor's friends filled Town and County catering hall Saturday night for an evening of music, presentations, and food as a token of appreciation for the religious leader. The anniversary festivities continued Sunday morning with a breakfast and concert at the synagogue.
Music was the centerpiece of the celebration Saturday night. Schwartz's many cantorial friends and wife Cantor Elena Schwartz gave gifts of song as they performed pieces ranging from traditional eastern European tunes to popular Broadway titles. Members of the Temple Beth Sholom Adult choir surprised the respected leader with a number of musical numbers to which they added their own comical lyrics. Others spoke about their cantor with kind words and presented him gifts.
Rabbi David Fass of Temple Beth Sholom noted the warmth Schwartz brings to the community.
"My purpose is not to embarrass him a lot, only a little… [he] has such an incredible heart for people," Fass said. "And I am happy to say that after being with him for 10 years, I know for sure that he is missing the premadonna-Cantor gene, it's just not part of his makeup… he said to me [once], 'I don't want to perform during a service, I want to lead people in prayers,' and that's exactly what he does. You cannot sit in the congregation without being part of his infectiousness, without being part of his joy, without participating."
The sisterhood, brotherhood, as well as board members also showered the religious figure with warm speeches, gifts and funny memories from the past decade of the cantor's time at the temple.
Martin Ruthstein, president of the temple board spoke about Schwartz.
"I want to tell you something that happened last night at the nursery school Shabbat, with the four year olds…they gave him a present and presented a series of why they like the Cantor," Ruthstein said. "[One] child said, 'I love the cantor because he makes me feel so good,' and I think that's why I love him and I think that's why everyone in the congregation loves him. He makes us feel good. His spirit is infectious."
But the celebration did not end that night, as the community gathered Sunday morning for breakfast and a concert. The music was performed by the temple children's choir, Cantor Schwartz, and guest Cantor Jeff Klepper, a popular Jewish musician and composer.
Editor's note: New City Patch correspondent Ziv Schwartz is a Rockland Community College student and is son of Cantor Sergei Schwartz.