Following an extensive search, Cantor Jason Green was appointed cantor at Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI).
He succeeds Cantor Daniel Benlolo, who left last summer after serving as the Conservative congregation’s first cantor following the 2016 amalgamation of Congregation Beth Shalom and Agudath Israel Congregation to create KBI. Cantor Benlolo had previously served at Beth Shalom.
Cantor Green, along with wife Jodi and their three sons – Zev, Noah and Eytan – met members of the congregation at a KBI Shabbat dinner on May 25.
Cantor Green said the dinner was a “kind of soft launch,” and an opportunity to meet people from the KBI community.
“There was delicious food and I led a little bit of communal singing in multiple-part harmony, which was new for some of the community,” he said. “So it was fun. It was relaxed, and it was an opportunity to connect with the people who came out.”
Growing up in Montreal, Cantor Green found his love for singing at a synagogue service when he was five years old.
“Long story short: the next Monday I was in the choir,” he said.
Cantor Green went on to study nusach hat’filah (prayer modes) and chazanut (cantorial art) at the London School of Jewish Studies. He received certification from the Conservative movement’s Cantors Assembly in 2007 and has served at several congregations in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Cantor Green said he likes to use a mix of different song styles. He uses mostly traditional prayer modes and melodies depending on the time of month and year, but they are interspersed with congregational singing of melodies that he will teach the congregation during services, online, through email, or even using CDs.
Cantor Green also includes cantorial and choral set pieces composed for synagogue services that usually incorporate the traditional melodies, but are more creative. He said he does not often use compositions that are more “florid and operatic” where the focus is just on the cantor’s voice.
“That’s not me. I’m not interested in having people hear my voice. I’m interested in having people hear the words of the prayers,” he explained.
Cantor Green said he has always formed choirs from within the congregational community to “help bring an extra harmonic level to the melody, in a way that doesn’t preclude the congregation from also singing along.” He also likes to periodically introduce new material to “keep everyone on their feet” in a way that is sensitive to the congregation as a whole.
Part of Cantor Green’s mandate at KBI is to be a facilitator for youth to become involved. He wants to help young people become a part of the congregation, appreciate prayers and become comfortable eventually leading their own services.
“If you don’t get that next generation ready to be the synagogue – to be the congregation – you might as well throw away the key,” he said.
Cantor Green said he loves the job at KBI and warmth of the community.
“I’ve got family members and friends in the community as well, so it really is a homecoming for me,” he added.
“I’ve met so many wonderful new people and started new relationships with my congregation, and it’s really been enjoyable.”