Written by Jane Berliner Friday, 25 May 2012 00:00On Sunday, May 6, a golden wedding anniversary was celebrated at Temple Beth Torah (TBT) and more than 400 guests were in attendance. This was not a traditional wedding anniversary between a man and a woman, but between a temple and its beloved cantor, Kalman Fliegelman. The “marriage” contract was signed 50 years ago when the temple was a fledgling synagogue in the area. The legacy of that contract still flourishes today.
The fruits of the contract are demonstrated by more than 1,000 children who have been coached for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah by the cantor, many of whom are second- and third-generation. In addition, there have been numerous Aufrufs (ceremonies before a bride and groom get married), marriages and baby namings performed, many of which were intergenerational. The cantor was also instrumental in training 72 women to read from the Torah in preparation for a B’not Mitzvah (adult Bat Mitzvah) and in preparing women of the congregation to lead a Sabbath service.
The cantor’s trademark has been his ability to train many teenagers to lead High Holiday services as well as other holiday services, and his capacity to lead both an adult and junior choir. But more important than his specific accomplishments over the past 50 years has been his spirit, his unfailing patience and the grace with which he performed all of his tasks. What adds to Cantor Fliegelman’s unique nature has been his ability to engage the entire congregation by encouraging total participation during services and thereby making for a more enriching experience. In addition to the cantor being honored, Carol, the cantor’s wife, was also recognized as a skilled and nurturing teacher who has taught for many years at Temple Beth Torah.
As with any wedding celebration, gifts were given. In this case, the gifts bestowed were in the form of both heartfelt presentations and song. The first presentation was made by TBT’s Rabbi Michael Katz. In his presentation he stated, “For 33 years I’ve been blessed to work with the most wonderful partner that a rabbi could ask for.” The rabbi spoke of the cantor’s magical ways of engaging the entire congregation beyond just the use of his voice. He also cited many instances in which Cantor Fliegelman acted as “the backbone of our congregation.”
Katz further stated, “It’s one the great blessings of my life that I worked together with the cantor all these years. We have come to know what the other is thinking without a word being said and have been able to help and support each other in the sacred work that we do wherever we are called upon.”
Esteemed colleagues Cantor Sam Gomberg, Cantor Israel Goldstein, Cantor Morris Wolk and Cantor Marvin Antosofsky, were on hand to praise the cantor in song, followed by group of TBT congregants: Nancy, Amy and Jane Batterman. These ladies composed and performed an original song in the cantor’s honor. On a lighter note, the cantor and his wife, along with the congregation, were entertained by the couple’s two sons, Larry and Stuart, who recounted with wit their personal history of growing up in the Fliegelman household.
After the presentations, a smorgasbord of food was enjoyed by all. At the conclusion of the evening, a journal, comprised of anecdotes and good wishes from hundreds of congregants was distributed. The TBT community is looking forward to sharing many more special moments with its beloved cantor in the years to come.