Congregation Bet Shalom has hired Cantor Avraham Alpert as its full-time clergy, starting July 14.
An Arizona native, Alpert was most recently cantor at Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas and had previously served as cantor of the Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento, Calif. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from the Herberger College of Arizona State University. Beginning in 1996, Alpert spent five years in Tucson at Congregation Anshei Israel, studying under Cantor Ivor Lichterman.
Last month, he returned to Tucson as a scholar-in-residence for a weekend at Bet Shalom, officiating at services and participating as a guest teacher in the religious school.
“With Cantor Alpert I knew we found a leader who would enhance our lay-led congregation,” says Jeff Bridge, president of Bet Shalom. “Our entire Shabbat weekend experience was filled with much ruach (spirit). With his incredible musical talents and unique approaches to connecting with adults and children of all ages, both musically and spiritually, Cantor Alpert will be an asset to the Tucson Jewish community.”
For his part, Alpert hopes to “continue the goodness” he sees at Bet Shalom and help the congregation grow. “It’s a community with a lot of excitement, warmth, kindness and energy,” he told the AJP.
In addition to leading Shabbat services, Alpert’s role at Bet Shalom will include developing new services and educational programs, teaching alongside Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz in the religious school, training and expanding the corps of lay leaders, tutoring B’nai Mitzvah students, creating instrumental and vocal ensembles, serving pastoral needs and officiating at lifecycle events, says Bridge. During the 2012 High Holy Days, Alpert will be joined by Jerusalem-based Rabbi David Ebstein, who has traveled to Tucson to lead services at Bet Shalom several times a year for the past eight years.
Alpert notes that he and his wife, Kamala, were newly married when he studied in Tucson. They look forward to returning here with their three children and renewing old friendships, he says.
As a cantor, Alpert will naturally focus on elevating Bet Shalom’s musical content. “There’ll be a lot of singing,” he says, but he’d also like to create opportunities for instrumental music.
To spur creativity, he says, and “keep everybody on their toes,” he’ll also institute occasional changes in venue. For example, he plans to hold a program on July 15 at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s new northwest office space at Oracle and Magee Roads.
Raised in Chandler, Ariz., Alpert also studied at the Yeshiva of Conservative Judaism in Jerusalem and is a former student of Maestro Elli Jaffe, the director and conductor of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue Choir. In 2007, Alpert became a member of the Cantors Assembly and was formally commissioned in 2010.
Alpert will take his place at the pulpit of Congregation Bet Shalom on July 14. The 9:30 a.m. Shabbat service will be followed by a special Kiddush.