"A Chanukah miracle in its own right.”
That’s how Paul Rockower, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix, describes the Phoenix Sings Chanukah Sing-a-Long, hosted by Congregation Beth Israel, which brings together eight cantors or cantorial soloists from eight different synagogues on Dec. 8.
“For the past two years, the Jewish people have just experienced tragic event, tragic event, tragic event,” said Cantor Seth Ettinger of CBI, the director and producer of Phoenix Sings. “It’s so easy for people to come together to support their wider community during a tragic event, but how often do we really get to come together in celebration?”
Starting at 3 p.m., the singers will perform solos, ensemble pieces and duets of well-known Chanukah songs. Participating musicians and congregations include Ettinger, Cantorial Soloist Suzanne Guinane of Temple Emanuel of Tempe, Cantor Jonathan Angress of Beth El Congregation, Cantor Baruch Koritan of Temple Beth Shalom of the West Valley, Cantorial Soloist Mike Robbins of Beth Ami Temple, Cantorial Soloist Susan Colin of Congregation NefeshSoul, Cantorial Soloist Sharon Friendly of the Desert Foothills Jewish Community Association, Cantorial Soloist Erica Erman of Congregation Kehillah and accompanist Jackie Huber. (Congregation Ohr Tzion assisted with preparations and was also going to participate, but their cantor won’t be in town during the concert.) Programs will be provided so that audience members can sing along.
“Whether you are Jewish, not Jewish, whether you know Hebrew, whether you don’t know Hebrew, these are going to be songs that everybody can sing along to,” Ettinger said.
Rockower praised the concert’s mission of bringing people together during happy times.
“I think it speaks volumes to the connectedness of our community and our ability to come together to celebrate together for joyous events like Chanukah,” he said. “That’s the best way to connect community, through music and food and culture and celebration of the holiday.”
At the end of the concert, all participating clergy will come together to sing and to light the menorah. Guinane is especially looking forward to that moment.
“It’s a special melody, and to be together in community with so many and to sing those blessings together, I get chills just telling you about that,” Guinane said. “When you get that many Jews together, all singing the blessings, there’s something really special.”
The concert and menorah lighting will be followed by a sufganiyot buffet.
“I can’t wait to see that — I hope I get at least one,” Guinane said.
Steve and Linda Bandler are underwriting the concert in memory of Steve’s mother, Sylvia, who passed away on Nov. 4.
“The essence of Mom was that she was a strong, independent and mobile woman,” Steve said. “She loved the performing arts, and she loved Chanukah, too. She loved eating my potato latke and lighting candles with the kids.”
“She would have been there if she could,” Linda added.
Ettinger plans to make the Phoenix Sings concert an annual Chanukah tradition, and Guinane is onboard.
“It’s wonderful to have a space to be out-loud-and-proud Jewish,” she said, “and to have a space where we can all come together and celebrate the miracle of the oil.” Guinane said. JN