Forward Thinking

A Trailblazing Cantor

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy of Marc Goldman

In many ways, Mark Goldman’s a traditional cantor. He serves a 900-member Reform congregation, in Plantation, Florida. He’s performed around the world, including a historic group gig at the Vatican. And he loves to chant the “haunting, yet familiar” Kol Nidre.

But this year, the UK expat became a trailblazer. After nearly two decades as a member, Goldman was elected president of the American Conference of Cantors, making him the first openly gay chazzan to hold the post.

Descended from a long line of cantors, the yeshiva-educated Goldman came out to his parents at age 27 — three years after emigrating to the States. He took on his first cantorial position at Temple Kol Ami, which later merged with Temple Emanu-El of Fort Lauderdale. Nineteen years later, he’s become a beloved fixture on the South Florida Jewish scene.

The Forward caught up with Goldman from the home he shares with interior designer Aaron Taber, his partner of 17 years.

First of all, what does the American Conference of Cantors do? And what does your leadership role involve?

The ACC is the largest organization of professional cantors; we represent over 500 ordained cantors in North America and internationally. Internally, the ACC provides a variety of services to its members, including employment, continuing education, & pension services. It’s my responsibility to oversee the entire organization in collaboration with a team of officers, professional staff, and executive board. I am the primary representative and voice of the ACC to communicate our thoughts/voice with the rest of the Jewish community.

You grew up in an Orthodox household, and now practice at a Reform shul. How would you rate the Orthodox establishment’s very tentative steps toward embracing gay people?

Snail-like. That being said, with the prevalence of the web, a number of support groups have sprung over the last decade, creating a much-needed home for Orthodox gay Jews to turn to and gather.

What’s your favorite part of the liturgy you get to chant? And what’s the personal spin you bring to your work? I saw you with a guitar in one picture.

I love to empower others to sing and encourage congregational participation as much as possible. Our services incorporate various musical instrumentation, styles, and loads of enthusiasm and energy.

My favorite cantorial prayer is the Kol Nidre. The familiar – yet haunting – melody resonates with the entire community regardless of age, demographics or Jewish knowledge.

What about your day-to-day responsibilities at the synagogue where you officiate?

My role in my congregation as co-senior clergy is extremely diverse. One minute, I’m singing (guitar in hand) with a class of two-year-olds and the next I’m consoling a congregant who might be experiencing challenges in her or his life. I’ve produced a number of full-stage production shows, concerts as well as fundraisers and social events. I teach b’nai mitzvah, confirmation, post confirmation, and adults of all ages and abilities. I’m highly involved in the visioning and strategic planning of my synagogue. My overarching objective is to be involved in every facet of synagogue life.

A piece about you in the Miami Herald said “as a cantor, Goldman dedicates himself to progressive, contemporary Judaism.” What does that mean to you?

To live a life dedicated to the highest ideals of humanity, to embrace the stranger, and contribute to the betterment of society and humanity through the vehicle of Jewish wisdom, culture, and community.

You come from a long line of cantors. Can you tell us about your family history? Did that compel you to pursue a cantorial career?

My father’s father was a cantor in Poland before he was sponsored by a synagogue in the United Kingdom, which allowed him and his family to escape Poland shortly before the outbreak of World War II. My mother’s maiden name, Chazen, is the Hebrew for cantor. Her father, though not a cantor himself, often spoke of a family lineage of cantors. My love of singing, coupled with my love of the synagogue, people, and community, compelled me to pursue a cantorial career.

A religion blog said “Just Call Gay Cantor Mark Goldman ‘President’”. How do you feel about getting ID’d everywhere as “the gay cantor”?

That makes me laugh! You really think people see me and go, “There’s the gay cantor?”

A lot of stories portrayed you as a role model for LGBT people. Is that something you’re comfortable with?

I am. If my story and life can help others in any way, then it’s a life well spent.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: reform, marc goldman, jewish, florida, cantor, LGBT

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.