Community Blog Ani Kinor: Visions of Prayer Leadership

By Hebrew College
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More than 30 students from around Boston and across the United States came to Hebrew College for “Visions of Prayer Leadership,” a new two-day intensive prayer leader seminar on June 3 and 4. The program kicked off Ani Kinor, an eight-week Hebrew College summer learning program that includes daily, weekly and multi-week courses in leading services and teaching music.

“We wanted to create an opportunity for people outside the Hebrew College community to get a taste of the musical and spiritual life that emanates from Hebrew College,” said Rabbi Dan Judson, dean of the Rabbinical School at Hebrew College. “Students had the opportunity to study with a number of master teachers, including Rabbis Art Green and Ebn Leader, who brought a wealth of insights from Hasidic Jewish sources about prayer.”

During the two-day intensive, participants studied the philosophy and practice of “shlichut,” prayer leading. Presentations and beit midrash-style text study explored the theme of “Listening to Text and Context,” including both physical and intellectual approaches to becoming an effective prayer leader. Participants included Hebrew College cantorial and rav-hazzan students as well as lay leaders, teachers, and musicians who are interested in Jewish liturgical music and prayer.

“The two-day course was stimulating and enjoyable, like all Hebrew College’s offerings,” said Naomi Myrvaagnes, who is also taking Hebrew College’s Me’ah Classic program. “I signed up for Ani Kinor on general principles — it was a chance to learn with the best. The topic, prayer leadership, was a special incentive. As always, the instructors were expert, welcoming, and genuinely open minded. The learning is in an atmosphere of warmth and humor underlain by serious spiritual seeking. And you don’t have to be an expert yourself to benefit from a course like this. We in the Boston community are fortunate to have Hebrew College in our midst.”

Bonnie Levine, an attorney in Atlanta who “spends her free time on Jewish music,” said she learned about the 2-day intensive because she had been exploring online cantorial and shaliach tzibur, or prayer leadercertification programs. Levine, who has two young children, is a music and Tefillah teacher for her synagogue’s religious school; chairs her synagogue’s spiritual music exploration committee; and is learning to be a shaliach tzibur for her congregation. She and her husband, Michael, a full-time musician, also have a Jewish music band called Sunmoon Pie.

“I got the email about Ani Kinor and the two-day intensive sounded perfect for me!  I was looking to learn, to experience, to get ideas for my congregation, and to see if I might want to change careers someday,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t realize my situation was so unique. I really enjoyed my experience and I talk about it all the time in my High Holiday music planning and my work on trying to help the rabbi with spiritual music exploration!” 

Keith Beasley of Chestnut Hill signed up for an Ani Kinor summer prayer class with Cantor and Rabbinical School Student Ken Richmond because of his interest in devotional music. Beasley, who teaches yoga, says be became interested in Jewish prayer and worship after attending a Passover seder this past spring. 

“Attending the class let me see the creativity that goes into a prayer service, including its potential diversity and choices, common themes, and thoughtfulness,” he said. “It has given me a better understanding of the artfulness of prayer rather than seeing it as simply an orchestrated ritual performed at the temple. It has also given me a better appreciation for the depth of study and commitment of the students who will become the next generation of Cantors and Rabbis.” 

Michele Koppelman of Needham, who has studied part-time at Hebrew College for about a decade, signed up for Ani Kinor to review festival nusach and deepen her understanding of festival liturgy, she said. Over the past 10 years, she has earned certificates in Jewish liturgical music and Cantillation and a Masters of Jewish Studies at Hebrew College. 

“The people here are great. The teachers are wonderful. The faculty are amazing. I think I have managed to study with everybody that I have on my bucket list. I haven’t stopped studying.” 

Ani Kinor general courses continue through the end of July.

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