Temple Sinai of Bergen County will honor its beloved cantor, Nitza Shamah, with “A Night for Cantor Nitza” on Saturday, May 14, at the shul. The community celebration, marking her 30th anniversary at Temple Sinai, includes a strolling dinner, a formal program with spoken and musical tributes, and a dessert reception.
“This celebration is our first major gathering since the pandemic began, and I cannot imagine a better reason to come together and reconnect with another,” Temple Sinai’s senior rabbi, Jordan Millstein, said. “It’s extremely rare for a cantor to come to one congregation and stay. This tells you how successful Cantor Nitza has been, and how beloved she is.
“Cantor Nitza is Temple Sinai. I marvel at her singing voice, but it’s so much more than that. She’s a wonderful teacher, a wonderful service leader, a wonderful partner, and wonderful at supporting our congregants. She means a lot to so many. And you can sense this in our services and in our experiences as we live our Jewish lives have more meaning because of Cantor Nitza. She has such a powerful spirituality.”
Cantor Nitza Shamah came to Temple Sinai in 1991. It was her first fulltime cantorial position after her student pulpit position and her studies at Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. Born and raised in Israel, Cantor Shamah earned a degree from the Music Academy at Tel Aviv University. Over the years, she married, moved to Nyack, and raised twin girls who are now 22 years old.
“It’s very, very special, what we have built over the years,” Cantor Shamah said. “My position as cantor has helped me form meaningful relationships and grow in many ways. There is a lot of love here. It is a place that hugs you. All you have to do is bring yourself here, and you can find yourself here. People are being met where they are, and that’s the beauty of Reform Judaism. And it’s really fun to make music here.”
Cantor Shamah is responsible for all of the music at Sinai’s services, on Shabbat and holidays, as well as its music education programs. She fills many other roles too, including assisting the rabbi with pastoral duties, preparing children to become b’nai mitzvah, and teaching Torah. She founded and directs the Temple’s popular Rock Shabbat.
There is no cost to attend the celebration. To register, go to templesinaibc.org/event/cantornitza.