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Our Clergy: Cantor Lilah Sugarman

Cantor Lilah Sugarman began serving United Jewish center in July of 2023. She is honored to join UJC. Cantor Lilah believes in empowering individual voices to create inclusive sacred communities through song, study, celebration, and tzedakah. Cantor Lilah was raised in Los Angeles, California where she grew up working and volunteering at her home synagogue, Kehillat Israel. Her family and synagogue community fostered a deep love for Judaism, learning, and music. Cantor Lilah attended San Diego State University where she graduated with high honors in Music, English, and Dance. In 2012 Cantor Lilah began her pursuit of a life-long dream of becoming a Cantor at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion where Cantor Lilah received her Master in Sacred Music and ordained.

In addition to her love for Jewish music, Cantor Lilah is also passionate about learning and teaching Torah. She has taught Hebrew, religious school, and B’nai Mitzvah students for fifteen years, in San Diego, New York and Los Angeles.  She has also taught dance classes as well as early childhood music classes and voices lessons.

In the Book of Psalms, it is written: "Let them Praise God's Name in Dance.” This text speaks to Cantor Lilah’s interest in engaging in full body Judaism that engages the mind, body and spirit. She explores this idea in the intersection of movement and prayer through the way she leads prayer, teaches music, and through teaching Jewish yoga classes. Cantor Lilah is a 200 hour certified Vinyasa yoga instructor.

Cantor Lilah has served communities in New York, New Jersey, and Los Angeles. Prior to joining UJC, she served as the Cantor of Congregation B’nai Yisrael in Armonk, NY.

At UJC she partners with the staff, and lay leaders to foster relationships and create meaningful Jewish experiences. Some of what she does there includes leading services and holidays, teaching in the religious school, working with B’nai Mitzvah students, officiating at lifecycle events, conducting the Adult and Children’s choir, engaging in interfaith work with the community, and teaching Jewish Yoga classes.

Cantor Lilah lives in Danbury with her husband Ben and their three cats. Ben is a Licensed Clinical Social Work and has a private practice. Together they love to cook, garden, drink tea, read, and create music.

You are welcome to visit her website to learn more about Cantor Lilah, listen to recordings, and read some of her teachings.

You can reach Cantor Lilah at:


Cantor Emerita 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 

Daryl Bain, Religious School Director

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

Wed, October 4 2023 19 Tishrei 5784