The Milwaukee Jewish Community Chorale has been performing since 1994, originally formed for the occasion of the Cantors Assembly convening in Milwaukee that year, as well as 150th anniversary of Milwaukee Jewry. The group of about 25 singers is now gearing up for its annual spring concert, with a group of cantors from the area teaming up to honor one of their own.
The Chorale will hold that concert on Sunday, June 4, at 3 p.m. at Congregation Shalom in Fox Point. The concert will have the theme of “Thanks for the Memories –Todah Al HaZichronot,” and will double as a chance to honor Cantor Karen Berman, who served as cantor at Congregation Shalom for more than 30 years until she took emeritus status in 2020. Berman, who has battled illness in recent years, will receive the Ilene Wasserman Legacy Award. Wasserman, who passed away in 2021, served as an officer of the Chorale.
“She’s always been very supportive of the Chorale and part of us from the beginning, in many ways,” Enid Bootzin Berkovits, the Chorale’s artistic director, said of Berman, in speaking to the Chronicle. “We really wanted to take this opportunity to thank her and give her this award. Because not only has she been wonderful, and anytime we’ve wanted her to do something, she’s been most generous with her time [and] her music.”
The concert will include a melody of “Shalom Rav” that Cantor Berman wrote herself.
“She had been very involved in the community — everyone knows her and loves her,” Bootzin Berkovits said.
“Through her leadership she taught hundreds of children the joy of being Jewish through music,” the Chorale said in its news release about the award, referring toBerman. “She also provided comfort and support to those who were grieving and facing trauma.”
Several area cantors will participate in the concert, including Cantor David Perper, Cantor Faith Steinsynder, Cantor Mimi Rozansky, Cantor Richard Newman, and Cantor David Barash.
“We say that we do both original and contemporary Jewish music,” Julie Magidson, the group’s president, told the Chronicle of the group’s repertoire. Magidson wrote for the Chronicle in 2017 about her experiences as part of the Chorale.
The Chorale regularly performs everything from prayers to Yiddish songs to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and showtunes, including some from “Fiddler on the Roof.” The Chorale is also performing a jazz arrangement of the traditional folk song “Eruv Shel Shoshanim.”
The group travels several times a year to other parts of Wisconsin, and sometimes out of state as well, thanks to a small grant they received. Most of the Chorale is Jewish, although that’s not a requirement for membership, Magidson said.
In addition to the in-person performance, it can be found at TributeStreams.com. Several of the chorale’s other recent concerts are also available to stream.
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The concert will include a melody of “Shalom Rav” that Cantor Karen Berman wrote herself.