For twenty-two of your forty-one years with Holy Blossom, I have been lucky enough to work with you, Cantor Maissner and to learn from you. I knew I was lucky to first call you my colleague and my teacher, and then my partner and friend. It has been a true privilege to stand by your side on the bimah shoulder to shoulder and lead this magnificent congregation forward.
One of the things I admire most about you is your natural sense of curiosity. That’s the secret of your youth! And I admire your curiosity for Torah learning in particular. So, a little Torah for this special night…
Moses was a Levi. His descendants, the Tribe of Levi, became the music makers in the Temple that stood in Jerusalem. Cantor Maissner is a Levi! He is a proud inheritor of this God-given assignment, to be the Chief Music Maker of OUR Temple.
Before Moses retired and passed on the mantel of leadership to Joshua, he addressed his people. He instructed the people in how to carry forward to lands of promise just on the horizon. What was the final mitzvah Moses the Levite delivered from God to the Jewish People? What is the 613th mitzvah of our Torah?
וְעַתָּ֗ה כִּתְב֤וּ לָכֶם֙ אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את
And now write this song
and teach this song to the People of Israel;
place it in their mouths,
לְמַ֨עַן תִּהְיֶה־לִּ֜י הַשִּׁירָ֥ה הַזֹּ֛את
לְעֵ֖ד בִּבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
in order that this song may be My witness for the People of Israel.
“And now write this song”
Dear Beny, you have fulfilled this grand and grand-finale mitzvah with DISTINCTION.
You have not only been an inheritor of Jewish Music, a student of the Cantorial Arts, a vessel of Jewish sounds from across the ages and across the lands wherever Jews have made a home, but you are also a composer of Jewish music. With the rigorous attention to detail, you write the songs. You climb into the notes, and offer each syllable of each word as a sacrifice on the altar. With the grace of the ancient Levites ascending the fifteen steps up to the Temple Mount, you are an embodiment of prayerful devotion to God.
“and teach this song to the people of Israel; place it in their mouths”
Beny, you have fulfilled this mitzvah with abundance, with generosity, and with high expectations. You are a demanding teacher. You have raised many disciples – the sure mark of a successful career. And you have seen countless B’nei Mitzvah to the Torah. You may have scared the Nusach right out of some of them, but they understood that you were putting this Torah into their mouths because 1) you take Torah seriously and 2) you take THEM seriously. Similarly, you have set high expectations for your choirs and for your congregation, which, under your baton has become one enormous choir, 5000 voices strong! You have placed this song into our mouths. Because you raise the bar every time, we now know how to HEAR the music and how to sing the prayerful songs. So please don’t you worry. We know how to offer up the music because you have taught us how. You can now retire with contentment and confidence because God has given this last mitzvah…
“in order that this song may be My witness for the People of Israel.”
Beny, your song is the witness, testifying to our strength and our commitment to the Jewish future. Your legacy will be witness to the future of Holy Blossom Temple. Your leading voice will ring in the ears of the Jewish People for generations to come because you have made your mark on us. You have changed us for the better. You say the music belongs to us. And we treasure you for it.
So Yasher Ko-ach, Beny, on fulfilling this mitzvah of a lifetime! You have written this song. You have taught it to your people. You have placed this never-ending song into our mouths. And it will be a lasting witness to the good that is to come.
Originally, this night was to be a gorgeous concert in our historic sanctuary and a delicious gala in our magnificent new Schwartz/Reisman Atrium. When Corona took us by surprise, we knew we’d have to find a way to celebrate online. And we came to call it a L’Chayim. Why a “L’Chayim”? Because tonight – in the midst of a global pandemic, at a time of real isolation and under the shadows of real fears – we need to come together and affirm this beautiful and messy God-given life.
So thank you, Cantor Maissner, for giving us one more gift. That is reason to celebrate in the midst of a challenging time. Thank you, for being a bright light every day. And especially now, when we long to be reminded of what it means to belong to a people, to belong to an extraordinary congregation to be inheritors of traditions that are old and strong and enduring. Tonight’s celebration came right on time, when we need you most, Beny. You continue to be with us when we need you to lift our spirits.
We thank the 120 volunteers who have this year of celebrations joyful, meaningful and memorable. I must single out the co-chairs of the Cantor’s Celebrations Committee. They are the extraordinary Helena Fine and Susan Cohen. We thank the producer of tonight’s program, Alan Gordon for his vision and direction. And we thank our unstoppable Director of Communications, Deanna Levy.
We thank everyone for joining us tonight from near and far. I understand there are more than 3000 screens open for this celebration, so that must be more than five or six thousand people with us. We thank you for the generosity you are showing to honour Cantor Maissner. The gifts you make now will ensure the continuation of Cantor Maissner’s musical legacy of excellence for years to come.
To cap off this wonderful night of celebration and loving tribute, I invite everyone to raise a glass wherever you are and at the count of three we’re going to shout: “L’Chayim!” Ready? Achat… Shteiyim… Shalosh…. L’Chayim!!
L’Chaim: Holy Blossom Did It Together
By Joan Garson, Chair, Celebration Steering Committee
There are some events that change everything, that impact Holy Blossom Temple life for a generation. The L’Chaim for Cantor Beny Maissner is one of them.
As soon as Cantor Maissner announced his retirement, our Congregation began to wonder how to sufficiently honour and thank him for his unmatchable contribution to us over more than 40 years. In time, a Celebration Committee was established, led by Helena Fine and Susan Cohen, and supported by Cantorial Soloist Lindi Rivers. That Committee began our community’s year of celebration with two events last fall, Selichot and Music and Art: Living Memory. Gillian Rosenberg of that Committee created a robust, creative and engaging online presence for “Beny 2020”.
At the same time, the Celebration Committee worked very hard to develop an outstanding tribute event, planned to take place in our Sanctuary on June 10, 2020. This was coupled with an ambitious fundraising target to ensure Cantor Maissner’s musical legacy at Holy Blossom Temple will continue. And then came COVID.
In just a day or two, our Congregation moved out of our beloved building and into everyone’s living rooms, virtually. We did so much so fast; we innovated and thrived. But how could an online celebration capture our love for Beny? How could it move him, and us, enough?
Here is where the Holy Blossom magic happened.
Over a period of only a few weeks the extraordinarily talented and committed volunteers and staff of the Celebration Committee, supported by a Steering Committee of additional volunteers and staff, created the virtual L’Chaim to replace the celebration which had been planned and worked toward for so long. This transformative pivot was led by our member Alan Gordon, the volunteer producer of the evening. The switch to an online event was one of love and commitment and a very big gamble. And it worked.
The Congregation demonstrated extraordinary support for Beny and the now-to-be virtual L’Chaim. Planners, participants and community, together we made the L’Chaim, itself less than 90 minutes long, a powerful celebration of Beny. We watched it and shared joy, gratitude and love. It was wonderful, and it surprised us all by how much it moved and connected us.
The L’Chaim reached thousands – more than we could possibly have included in our Sanctuary. It was a triumph for its creators and for the many, many supporters of Beny who participated. The online tribute book to come will be a record of the evening and will, thanks to the extraordinary work of Gillian Rosenberg and Director of Communications Deanna Levy, contain even more moments to treasure in pictures, words, video and song. Watch for it.
At the same time, a major gifts Fundraising Committee of volunteers led by Sam Sapera, together with a greetings team led by Sheila Smolkin and Les Rothschild, all supported by Development Associate Ellen Ostofsky, worked behind the scenes. That team has already raised more than $450,000 with the astonishing generosity of our congregation, and from a larger circle of friends and admirers of Beny. This will ensure that Holy Blossom remains a musical congregation, the ongoing legacy of Cantor Maissner.
There were at least four achievements of our L’Chaim which I want to name and honour
- Beny knows beyond question how much we treasure him. The evening (and the rest of our year of celebration) thanked him, not just within the limitations of Zoom technology, or as a second choice imposed on us by COVID, but beautifully and well.
- We came together in telling Beny how much we love him. Watching his event in our thousands, and sending him greetings and donations, were shared acts of love by Holy Blossom’s members. We had a positive, extraordinary experience as a Congregation from our living rooms, even as we included lovers of Beny from around the world.
- We met Cantor Rosen and watched how he honoured Beny and shared with us all. Very soon we will welcome him to Holy Blossom Temple.
- An extraordinary lay and staff partnership was created. In the strange spring of 2020, we were creative, generous, thoughtful and engaged in the best tradition of Holy Blossom. Our celebration evening was led by Helena Fine and Susan Cohen and their amazing and talented team of volunteers. The contribution of staff was largely invisible to the Congregation as a whole except on the night of the program, but the evening wouldn’t have happened without them. Many thanks to Cantorial Soloist Lindi Rivers, Executive Director Ron Polster, Director of Communications Deanna Levy, Development Associate Ellen Ostofsky, and Director of Membership Abigail Carpenter-Winch. We benefitted from the steady support and leadership of Rabbi Splansky and President Avra Rosen. The many, many additional names of those we all want to thank will appear in the tribute book.
As Holy Blossom basks in the happiness of Wednesday evening, I want, as the chair of the Steering Committee that worked to support the evening, to honour the Celebration Committee, the Fundraising Committee, and the entire Steering Committee, the eloquent congregants, Rabbis and Cantors who spoke for all of us during the L’Chaim, the hundreds and hundreds of generous donors, and our Congregation. We are a community at Holy Blossom. We are inspired by our Rabbis and Cantors, our leadership and the bonds of common experience and future dreams. We accept responsibility for each other and we find and share the best in all of us.
Together, the Holy Blossom Temple community of members, staff, Rabbis and Cantors replaced our worry and isolation with shared love, thankfulness and joyful celebration. All of us will remember this June of 2020 as the time when we listened from our living rooms with tears in our eyes to Beny’s unforgettable Shehechiyanu. L’chaim!
A Night to Remember – June 10, at 7:30 pm
Join us for a once-only night to remember as we celebrate the 41-year career of Cantor Beny Maissner at Holy Blossom Temple. This online L’chaim celebration is the culmination of a series of exciting events that have taken place throughout the year.
It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate in these difficult times, and you will find the evening to be heart-warming, thoroughly enjoyable and professionally produced. It includes humour, tributes and reminiscences that will both delight and bring tears to our eyes. A special thank you to our entire Celebrations Committee who have worked tirelessly throughout the year. In particular, we thank Alan Gordon for conceiving and directing this June 10th event.
The night sums up what we have learned from Cantor Maissner – authenticity of worship, the ties between the many Jewish communities and eras, the relationship between the words and the music of prayer. His wonderful voice and musical intelligence allied with profound Jewish scholarship strengthened our ties to Israel, identity and values. Many of us started as observers and listeners; by the end of his tenure, we all participate in nusach and t’filah.
He has been with us at Simchas and in sorrows, sometimes by the bedside and always at the bimah. He has taught us, entertained us and shared new music. He has travelled with us. He has transported us as our Shaliach Tzibur. Cantor Maissner has had an undeniable impact on the synagogue which is so different today than the one he came to 41 years ago.
So, join the hundreds of families, congregants and others already registered here. Share your own memories directly on Facebook that night, June 10th at 7:30. Make this once-only event an occasion – dress up, raise a glass of bubbly and say thank you and L’chaim to Cantor Benjamin Z. Maissner, to our Beny.
Helena Fine and Susan Cohen
Co-chairs, Cantor’s Celebrations Committee
Roots of Admiration: A Family’s Proud Participation in the Beny2020 Tribute
By Denise Gordon
When Cantor Benjamin Maissner announced his retirement, Holy Blossom Temple began planning how to honour him. Gillian Rosenberg got involved, then her son Benjamin, and Gillian’s mother, long-time Temple member Zita Gardner. Soon Gillian recruited cousin Jerry McIntosh, making it an extended family affair.
Zita, a former head of the Leo Baeck Day School recalls, “when our children were young, our family celebrated many Shabbat dinners and numerous occasions with the Maissners. We love Beny and his family – our roots go deep.”
Zita is working enthusiastically on the Tribute book, helping Gillian, a proud 3rd generation Temple member. Gillian also coordinates the Beny2020 social media program, which includes Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Gillian’s son, Benjamin, designed the Beny2020 logo. Gillian enlisted a cousin, a more recent Temple member, independent film producer Jerry McIntosh, for interviews with Beny.
“I have always admired Beny’s voice at services, his breadth of knowledge, talent and enthusiasm as a cantor, but getting to know him better has only deepened my appreciation.” Jerry is even digitally archiving Beny’s audio work for posterity and helping produce video items for the tribute.
You can see their work and the tireless efforts of so many dedicated congregants on June 10th. When your family joins many more at the online tribute to Cantor Benjamin Maissner, it will be an imaginative, surprising, and unforgettable affair to honour 41 years of service to Holy Blossom. Raise a glass and say l’chaim!
My dear congregation,
I just came back from the most incredible experience in Hannover, Germany. The European Cantorial Association, hosted at the magnificent Villa Seligmann, the House of Jewish Music, the Hannover Orthodox Synagogue, and by the Jewish Communities of Lower Saxony. Cantors of all denominations participated in the high-level programs of Academic nature, reflections, and performances. I had the privilege to present two lectures and sing in three concerts. It was an honour to be welcomed with open arms by the community, both Jewish and local, politicians, and church leaders.
We marked International Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27, 2020) with the most incredible Symphonic concert, “THE NIGHT PROJECT.” This astounding concert, attended by 3500 people, featured the music (of the greatest Cantor ever-living) LEIB GLANZ, orchestrated by our ingenious Cantor, Cantor Joseph Ness, and included a dramatic reading from Elie Wiesel’s book, Night by the most celebrated German Actor, Sebastian Koch.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, and were called back to a cheering audience for a full ten minutes!
During the convention, I was interviewed by NDR the TV of lower Saxony and told the story and fate of my family. We spoke and visited the sight of the glorious Synagogue built in 1876 and burnt in Kristallnacht, November 1938. This broadcast reaches around 40 million people!
Please enjoy a few links from my experience in Germany.
Time is running fast and we are already in mid-winter as our MUSICAL HERITAGE CONCERT SERIES unfolds.
This Musical Heritage Series is dedicated to all of you, our congregants, as a gift from our music committee and myself. These concerts are our way of saying THANK YOU for all the years of musical excellence we have enjoyed together.
YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS ONE!
The MUSIC OF LOUIS LEWANDOWSKY is the backbone of Synagogue music.
This upcoming concert is personal for me, as it connects my own European musical heritage with my Holy Blossom family. I have invited the famous and talented colleague, Kantor Isidoro Abramowicz, and together, with our choirs and Myself to conduct, we offer you a special Friday night service of L. Lewandowsky music as is done in his Synagogue in Berlin.
Isidoro is the Cantor at the Synagogue Pestalozzistraße in Berlin and is also the director of the Cantorial School at the Abraham Geiger College. As a Tango singer, he performs with different ensembles and is co-creator of the Trio Yehi Shalom, with the goal to create dialogue and to bring peace through music.
After Shabbat dinner, we will be entertained at a special musical concert.
From Hazzanuth to Tango
A musical trip from Hazzanut to Tango through the opera. An enjoyable evening in Spanish, Hebrew, Yiddish. Here is a taste of what’s to come: https://www.youtube.com/user/IsidoroAbramowicz/
Hope to see many of you! Bring your friends.
Saturday Morning, February 8, at 10:30 am Kantor Isidoro will deliver the SERMON IN SONG.
Musical Heritage Concert Series 2020
Dear Friends and Congregants,
I hope this note finds you well. As I have done for the past 41 years, I am writing to inform you about our upcoming Musical Heritage Concert Series.
This year is a very emotional time for me, as it will be my last year as your Senior Cantor. My retirement in June 2020 is fast approaching. Thereafter, I look forward to being your Cantor Emeritus.
But that day is not today, and the Musical Heritage Committee and I have prepared for you an extraordinary musical program. Over many years, we have presented a wide variety of Jewish musical styles in order to enrich our awareness of our Jewish heritage. Indeed, our mission to widen the horizons of Jewish music for all to enjoy has been met time and time again.
As a token of our appreciation for your support, it is our pleasure to present this series of three wonderful concerts in 2020. Please note that the concerts on Saturday, January 18th and Shabbat Shira, February 7th are free admission, but there is a fee for the accompanying dinners.
The last concert, on Sunday, May 24, 2020, is unique in character and message. It is very meaningful to me because it was the first concert that I presented after my arrival at Holy Blossom Temple in 1979. With the support of Rabbi Harvey Fieldsz’l, we performed The Sacred Service by Ernest Bloch. It is in this spirit that I want to finish this year’s concert series with the same composition that I performed at the start of my tenure as Senior Cantor of this prestigious congregation.
Kindly save these dates:
Journey of Klezmer to Jazz, Saturday, January 18, 2020, 7:30 PM (Mincha Service at 5:00 PM)
Shabbat Shira, Friday, February 7, 2020, 6 PM and Saturday, February 8, 2020, 10:30 AM
In Song and Praise, Final Concert, Sunday, May 24, 2020, 7:30 PM
I am looking forward to seeing you throughout my final season. I am confident that you will be moved by the sounds of these magnificent masterpieces.
With warm greetings and blessings for another awesome musical season.
Harmoniously, your Cantor,
Cantor Benjamin Z. Maissner
#HBTBeny2020 Tribute Videos
We are collecting video tributes to Cantor Maissner! Do you have a short and sweet message to share with him and the Holy Blossom Temple community?
You can submit your video individually, as a group/family, or however you are most comfortable!
To send us your video please follow these guidelines:
- State your name(s) and your connection to Beny and/or HBT
- Max 30-45 seconds long
- If you are stuck: “I remember when…”; “I admire how you…”; “I’m excited to see you in your new role…”; “I wish you the best…” etc.
- Technical specifications: .MOV, .MP4, or .AVI, camera settings (4K 60fps if possible)
- Submit videos to Beny2020 email via dropbox or google, or drop off USB memory stick at the welcome desk, labelled “Tribute Video, attention Deanna”
If you are unable to film a tribute video yourself, we have the following days available for filming:
- December, 15, 2019, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
- February, 3, 2020 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
- March 9, 2020 – by appointment
Please email [email protected] to book your time!
Check out the videos already submitted!
As co-chairs of the Cantor’s Celebrations committee, we are delighted to invite you to the second event honouring Cantor Beny Maissner’s contributions before he becomes Cantor Emeritus. Join us at the concert MUSIC AND ART: LIVING MEMORY on Wednesday, November 6th in the sanctuary starting at 7 PM.
Cantor Maissner was enormously moved by the research project of Maestro Francesco Lotoro, the Italian pianist and musicologist, who brings to life music composed in the concentration camps. This emotional and meaningful concert is one that Cantor Maissner sought to bring to Holy Blossom as a testament to the ability of music and art to preserve and transmit memory, demonstrate survival and resilience, and inspire future generations.
This concert could not have been possible without the generous sponsorship of Esther and Marvin Tile, and Mary Seldon and Family.
The program, during Holocaust Education Week, weaves together a number of different elements and Holocaust stories.
- Maestro Francesco Lotoro performs music of unfamiliar composers. Some survived, some didn’t, but their music lives on through Lotoro’s research. He will be ably supported by Cantor Maissner (voice), Moshe Hammer (violin) and Igor Gefter (cello). Hammer is an internationally recognized performer whom Holy Blossom congregants know well from Kol Nidrei, and Igor Gefter is a prize-winning musician with the Toronto Symphony.
- The “Victory March” from the children’s opera Brundibar, performed more than 50 times in the horrible ghetto conditions of Terezin, is sung by a youth ensemble. Not only are there young people from Holy Blossom and from The Leo Baeck Day School performing, but the Cantor’s own grandchildren will also take part. Some young-adult performers from the first Toronto production 20 years ago are returning for this special occasion. (Renee Bouthot, conductor, and Igor Kurtzman, accompanist). A special guest will be HB congregant John Freund who brought the idea of the production to Toronto decades ago; he actually auditioned for the opera in Terezin and was one of only 300 children who survived.
- Cantor Maissner will reflect on a particular musical and cantorial heritage by performing songs of his uncle, Israel Alter. Known as the “cantor’s cantor”, he was the last chief cantor of Hanover Germany and left the country in 1935.
- Finally, members of Holy Blossom congregation and students from its religious school have created Gates of Memory, a community art project, devised by artists Eva Ormut and Beth Roher, both HB members. Young singers will pass through the Gates of Memory, on their way to sing and to stir us with the ‘Victory March.”
The concert is free and open to all. Registration is available online: https://holyblossom.org/event/music-and-art-living-memory/
This is a very special year for the Cantor as so many of you have already acknowledged by attending Selichot reception and services, raising your voices through the High Holy Days, and asking to volunteer and to help out with the celebrations. There will be many opportunities to do more after this concert in anticipation of the last big event of the year, a wonderful extravaganza of tribute on WEDNESDAY JUNE 10th. Mark the date in your calendars now.
Susan Cohen & Helena Fine
Cantor’s Celebrations Committee, Co-Chairs