Cantor with a conscience: Cantor Jennifer Rueben

by | Jan 22, 2018 | Other News

A soaring new cantorial voice can be heard at Ohef Sholom Temple. Facilitating meaningful prayer and bringing festive and beautiful music to her congregation, however, are not the only talents Cantor Jennifer Rueben has revealed since her arrival in Norfolk five short months ago. Cantor Jen, as she is known to all, actively leads the congregation and community in the social justice advocacy that Judaism’s prophetic tradition has long espoused.

She had barely arrived in Virginia when the horrors in Charlottesville occurred. Cantor Jen made it her mission to bring the community together in prayer and organized professionally directed dialogue to help everyone cope with feelings and need for action.

When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Cantor Jen actively sought ways to help victims by connecting Tidewater’s Jewish community with theirs. With firsthand experience from helping West End Temple of Neponsit, N. Y., through the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, she initiated and spearheaded the effort to gather financial support and gift cards, sending them to a colleague in the affected area to directly benefit those who needed critical help most.

Her strong calling to social action prompted her to participate in the Ministers March for Justice in Washington and to inspire Ohef Sholom to sign the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Brit Olam. By signing this Brit Olam, Ohef Sholom commits to take positive and specific steps for Tikkun Olam (repair of the world).

When Ohef Sholom’s engagement committee decided to build a community sukkah, Cantor Jen was an essential part of every one of the eight nights of activity— each directed at a different segment of OST’s congregational family. Cantor Jen made sure that everyone was informed and her enthusiasm and excitement were contagious. The events were meaningful and joy-filled for all who attended, many of whom had never been in a sukkah before. Similarly, through the medium of Facebook Live, she spread the light of Hanukkah through the temple’s nightly candlelighting to more than 10,000 homes during the eight day festival.

Cantor Jen is clearly passionate about her work. Her warm and welcoming spirit brings out the best in children and adults alike. She inspires the joy of Judaism in the students whom she especially loves to teach and brings solace to those in need of healing as when, unsolicited, she comforted a congregant suffering from Alzheimer’s disease by singing with him in his home.

A delighted and appreciative Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg says, “We are so blessed to have Jennifer Rueben as OST’s cantor and as my clergy partner; her magnificent voice is matched equally by her compassion – ate heart, a rare deep well of spirituality, an incredible sharp mind, a lively sense of humor, and an infinite desire to serve God and our community.

“Cantor Jen’s growing and deepening partnership with Rabbi Roz is evident to all. Their personalities and styles compliment each other in so many ways. It is a sacred partnership that honors and supports them as individuals while together they evoke something divinely inspired,” says Karen Fine, OST president.