By Amy Wolff Sorter
An important part of Judaism is community. This past Sunday, “community” was in full force, at least the Tarrant County community was, at the Fort Worth Hadassah’s “Shir and Schmooze with Shoshana and Sheri.”
The event featured Tarrant County cantors Shoshanna Abrams of Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth and Sheri Allen with Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington. Etty Horowitz was nice enough to open her lovely home for the event, and these two extraordinarily talented and personable cantors treated everyone in attendance to their life stories and remarkable singing performances.
What struck me as Sheri and Shoshana spoke wasn’t so much their differences, but their similarities. Certainly on the surface, both women are vastly different — Sheri has been established in Tarrant County for years while Shoshana came on board over the summer.
Their backgrounds are different, too. Shoshanna was born and raised in Los Angeles and was steeped in Judaism (as was twin sister Elisa), from birth. Shoshana refers to herself as “Latin Jewish,” for good reason: One set of grandparents hails from Argentina, the other from Cuba, and both came to the United States to escape persecution. Shoshana also knew from a very early age that music was her passion.
Sheri, on the other hand, was born and raised in the Chicago area and was candid that her family wasn’t really observant — “I thought Shabbat took place on Sundays,” she commented, wryly, adding that when she had the option to attend religious school after regular school, she refused to do so because “what kid wants to go to school after school?”
It wasn’t until she met her husband, Richard Allen, that her knowledge of and love for Judaism became better defined. And it wasn’t until much later that Sheri, who originally wanted to be an actress but wanted nothing to do with singing, came to an understanding of, and love for, music.
The women’s education differed, too. Shoshana received cantorial training through the H.L. Miller Cantorial School and the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Sheri’s program of study came through the Cantorial Intern Program of the Cantors Assembly.
Now on to the similarities, one of which is their initials — “S.A.” But there is more. Both ended up at Adat Ari El, a conservative synagogue in North Hollywood, Calif. The Abramses were active members, while the Allens, though latecomers to California, also became very much involved with the shul; Sheri taught younger children there.
“Given the time and ages we are, it wouldn’t have surprised me if Shoshana had been a toddler, in the background, while I was there,” Sheri quipped.
Still, the similarities between these two women go much deeper. Their commitment to Judaism unifies them, as does their talent and passion for music. Their stories are moving and inspiring, as are their voices. And they’re both thoroughly nice people and fun to talk to. “Shir and schmooze” indeed; the Hadassah program was aptly named.
And now for more schmoozing
Another important part of Sunday’s Hadassah program involved a presentation by former Fort Worth Hadassah president Laurie Werner, who was among the thousands who went to Israel some weeks ago in honor of the organization’s 100th anniversary.
One event taking place was the dedication of the Madlyn Barnett Healing Garden in the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower at the Hadassah Medical Center. Even better is that Laurie presented photos of the gorgeous new hospital (part of it is still under construction and “cranes are still on the east side,” Laurie noted). Other photos included Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s receipt of a Hadassah award and the colorful decorations at the convention center.
That final reminder
One of the terrific things about the Hadassah event and others in the Jewish community is that I meet a lot of people. People who, when they find out I’m writing Around the Town, are eager to tell me about information they want to send.
So please send that information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This week’s column is somewhat short due to space constraints, but I have plenty of room next week — I hope.