Cantor celebrates 10 years at Beth Sholom

Cantor Eric Moses is celebrating 10 years as cantor at Beth Sholom Synagogue, with a concert on April 5 featuring Joshua Nelson, an African-American Jewish entertainer.

Moses will also  be joined by his brother Alex,and Cantor Gideon Zelermyer and Stephen Glass of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal.

For the first time in public in 20 years, Moses plans on playing classical piano on a full-size grand.

“My mother was a teacher at the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music and I played all through my childhood. I’ve been practising and practising for this concert.”

He called Nelson, whose singing is a distinctive combination of traditional Jewish and gospel music, “electrifying.”

Moses, 40, who is married and has three young children, said he is grateful to be a cantor. “In life, we all have certain gifts, but we’re not given the opportunity to share them. I’m fortunate in that category.”

Born in Sudbury, Ont., – his family left when he was 13 – Judaism became very important to him. “I think that my Jewish identity was strengthened as a young boy because when you don’t have it around you, you crave it more. I always knew I was different from other kids, but I was proud of it. It forced me to ask more questions.”

A graduate of the Tel Aviv Cantorial Institute under the direction of Naftali Herstik, chief cantor of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, Moses first graduated with an MBA.

“I hadn’t intended to be a full-time cantor [but when I thought about it], a cantor advised me to complete my degree. He said I’ll sing better if I know I have a full education.”

Among his most memorable performances, he said, are appearances on the Merav Michaeli television show in Israel, and a gala cantorial concert at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Florida. He has produced two CDs and served as president of the Toronto Council of Chazzanim from 2006 to 2008.

He also produced tributes to Cantor Eliezer Kirshblum and the late Cantor David Bagley.

Being a cantor is a “24/7 thing. It’s always with me. I admit I have been faced with stage fright, but I’ve tried to combat it. I’ve been performing since I was six years old, so I know that once you settle into a concert, the stage fright leaves. It’s the anticipation that is sometimes difficult.”

He feels privileged to work at Beth Sholom, he said. “I have a unique friendship with Rabbi Aaron Flanzreich, and it is a wonderful congregation. When my wife was ill, we had tremendous support from the congregation and the broader community.”

In his 10 years at the synagogue, he said, he has taught some talented bar/bat mitzvah students, and four of them will be joining him on stage at the concert.

Moses performs with Joshua Nelson at Beth Sholom Synagogue on April 5. For tickets and information, call the synagogue at 416-783-6103.