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Cantor/Senior Clergy Penny M. Kessler

 

 

 

 

 Cantor Penny Kessler’s journey to the cantorate began years before she entered the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. A self-acknowledged “Hebrew School dropout,” Cantor Kessler made sure that Judaism and the Jewish community remained integral to her essence and spiritual growth. When she and her husband joined the UJC as young parents, she joined the UJC’s adult choir under the direction of Cantor Sam Radwine, who introduced her to Jewish worship music and encouraged to seek her master’s degree in sacred music.

Cantor Kessler believes that Judaism offers a path and a guide to holiness and an awareness of God in our lives. Her vision as a cantor is to use Jewish music and texts to help Jews to find their own Jewish paths to holiness and God awareness, to develop relationships within the Jewish community, and welcome new generations of Jews into the Jewish family. All her work at the UJC is focused on those goals, whether it is directing the UJC Adult Choir, sitting on the floor teaching music to kids in the religious school, presenting continuing ed programs and field trips for grownups, or developing – along with the lay leadership – periodic meditation Shabbat services, the yearly Tashlich service, the UJC’s online presence, and other initiatives.

In the community, Cantor Kessler participates in ARC’s Danbury and Bethel’s Interfaith Thanksgiving services and the “Breakfast for Care” of the Bethel Visiting Nurse Association. She presents holiday-themed programs at various assisted-living and nursing home facilities in the area and contributes regular columns to the Danbury News-Times “Forum on Faith” and Jewish Federation “Focus” newspapers. Cantor Kessler co-chaired and co-led the Danbury chapter of NCJW’s Women Seders.

A member of the Executive Board of the American Conference of Cantors, Cantor Kessler serves on the ACC’s Communications Committee, the Committee on Ethics and Appeals, and the Social Action and Justice Committee, serving as past ACC representative to the Executive Committee of the URJ’s Social Action Committee. She served on the faculties of URJ Eisner and Crane Lake Camps as well as NFTY-NE Institutes. In 2007, she and a cantorial colleague were the first cantors to be invited to participate in the URJ’s Eilu v’Eilu project, discussing the Jewish challenge of difficult musical texts such as the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.” Her devar Torah on parashat Eikev, “For Our Own Good,” was included in the URJ publication, “Living Torah: Selections from 7 Years of Torat Chayim.”

Cantor Kessler makes her home with her husband Stanley in Bethel, and they are the proud parents of Alaina, Warren, and Harrison – all of whom grew up at the UJC.

You can reach Cantor Kessler at (203) 748-3355 or cantor@unitedjewishcenter.org. 

Daryl Bain, Religious School Director

Daryl Bain is the Director of Education; she can be reached at (203) 743-1180 or eddir@unitedjewishcenter.org.

Sat, October 31 2020 13 Cheshvan 5781