Q&A with B’nai Amoona’s longtime hazzan

Cantor Sharon Nathanson

By Eric Berger, Associate Editor

Update: Event organizers report the “Sweet 16” event celebrating Cantor Sharon Nathanson’s 16 years with the congregation, originally planned for March 29, has been rescheduled for Oct. 25.

Cantor Sharon Nathanson has been involved with Congregation B’nai Amoona in some capacity for her entire life. She taught preschool music. She taught bar and bat mitzvah students.

And it’s been 16 years since she became the Conservative synagogue’s hazzan. 

With that long history in mind, the congregation is preparing to honor Nathanson with a sweet 16 concert fundraiser, the proceeds of which will endow a cantorial chair. The event, which had been planned to take place March 29, is now set for Oct. 25. 

The Jewish Light caught up with Nathanson to discuss her long history with the congregation and what’s ahead.

Tell us what this endowment means.

The idea behind the endowment is to ensure that we have music at B’nai Amoona for years to come, which is an important way into community and Jewish life for so many people, including myself.

Reflecting on that 16-year anniversary, what’s it like for you to hit that mark?

It’s exciting to see my b’nai mitzvah parents becoming grandparents and my b’nai mitzvah students becoming moms and dads and seeing them in their professional lives. Just seeing the growth of the community is pretty touching. 

There are those sad parts, because then you lose people as well who were such a part of the fabric of your community. But that’s what it means to be part of a community, celebrating together and mourning together, and this is when we are celebrating together. It’s great to have an excuse to celebrate. Judaism teaches us to find reasons to celebrate fully.

How has B’nai Amoona changed over the last 16 years?

Well, we have changed physically, our building looks different. I think we keep growing in widening the tent of welcoming all kinds of people with all kinds of spiritual needs and social needs. We are constantly growing in that way. 

What do you think the next 16 years will hold for B’nai Amoona?

I hope that it holds just as much growth, and I hope that it holds a lot of music. I hope the expansion of musical outreach will bring people together because I think people need to have connections to each other. That’s what community can be, and it can be more than that because it’s your spiritual life. It’s not just a social connection; there is a higher level of connection there. 

What sort of music can people expect at the concert?

It’s a lot of Broadway and some swing, a little hint of Yiddish, but mostly it’s English, fun music. I will be singing some solos, but I also will have some of our congregants who are professional musicians singing and playing music along with me.

People have been asking me to sing Broadway pieces with some of our congregants who I sing liturgical music with, so I have listened.

This concert, it’s a celebration, it’s a party. I think you can go a lot of places in St. Louis and hear great music, but this is really a celebration. 

It’s personal to me, so I will be sharing music that is personal to me, and I will be sharing stories that are personal to me. 

It’s not going to be a serious concert, so you have to be prepared for a little bit of silliness and a lot of fun.