STL native finds first cantorial post in Nashville

Tracy Fishbein

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

On the road again

I’m headed to Israel next week armed with a number of stories I plan to report while there, but I am still on the hunt for more. Specifically, I would love the names of former St. Louisans who are now living in Israel – either temporarily or permanently – and doing interesting work there. If you have contact information for these folks, preferably an email address but I’ll take a phone number, please let me know as soon as possible by emailing [email protected] or calling me at 314-743-3669. Thanks so much. 

Singing for supper

Speaking of former St. Louisans doing great things in other places, congratulations to Tracy Fishbein, who was installed last month as cantor of Congregation Ohabai Sholom, better known as “The Temple” of Nashville, Tenn. The Temple is a Reform synagogue of 160 years with a membership of 605 families.

Cantor Fishbein is the daughter of Terry Fishbein and David Fishbein. She graduated from Parkway North High School and grew up attending Temple Israel Congregation, where she was mentored by Cantor Linda Blumenthal.

“When I started working with Tracy she was in her early teens. She was much more mature than your average young teenage girl,” said Blumenthal, who attended the installation in Nashville and sang with Fishbein at the event. “I worked with teenage girls before and generally speaking, their voices are very breathy, unsupported, with very little ability to interpret music. When I stared working with Tracy, she had an unusual ability to interpret music for her age and express music in a very passionate way.”

Fishbein, who is now 30, said she knew she wanted to be a cantor when she was 16. She remembers being on the bimah at Temple Israel, singing Debbie Friedman’s “L’Chi Lach” to her brother Adam at his bar mitzvah.

“It was a piece I knew well so I didn’t have my head in the music,” she said. “I could see the congregation and how moved everyone was – what the combination of music and prayer can do for people. I thought, ‘This is pretty great. I could really do this all the time.’”

Fishbein said after that, “Cantor Blumenthal took me under her wing and allowed me to sing at Friday night services. Not just a piece here and there, but she put her trust in me right from the beginning and allowed me to take over the service.”

In discussing Fishbein, Blumenthal remarked several times how “un-diva”-ish her former student is. Fishbein chuckled at hearing that, explaining she learned not just from the example Blumenthal set but also from the rabbis at Temple Israel. “TI was always there for me and my family no matter what we needed,” said Fishbein. “As a result, I have had a strong desire to give back not just to the congregation of Temple Israel but to the Jewish people in general, sharing my talents and what I do well with other people.”

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Fishbein took a couple of years off “to get my ducks in a row” and then attended Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion, first in Jerusalem and then in New York. She did a three-year stint as a student cantor at a congregation in York, Pa. before getting the Nashville job.

“I walked into the building and knew it was the right place for me. I meshed well with the rabbis and felt the congregation was ready for the kind of music and worship I could bring to them,” said Fishbein. “I cancelled all the other interviews I had lined up because I knew (The Temple) was where I wanted to be.”

One of the pluses, says Fishbein, is meeting congregants who are such accomplished musicians themselves. “We have congregants who write for Reba McEntire and Wynonna Judd,” she said. “It’s so cool to be in a congregation with such gifted musicians, people who give so much to America’s music scene.”

Modern Seinfeld

Kramer joins a gay gym (“Well, those guys know how to take care of themselves.”), gets in a fight with Anderson Cooper over the treadmill. 

George’s GF dumps him because he calls her instead of texting. 

Elaine writes “50 Shades of Grey” fan fiction. 

Jerry breaks up with his GF (Malin Akerman) because she live-tweets everything. “You’re eating a bagel! I don’t care! No one CARES!”

In 140 characters or less, “Seinfeld” fans can now enjoy a modern take on Twitter at Modern Seinfeld (@SeinfeldToday) rather than just watch the reruns on TBS again and again and again and. . .