Congregation Micah’s Cantor Josh Goldberg has only been on the job for nine months, but he is already making lasting memories for his congregation. And on June 2 he will be formally installed. The ceremony also coincides with his ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion where he received his cantorial training. “Rabbi Flip and Rabbi Laurie initially wanted to do this last fall, but I wanted to wait until I had my ordination,” he says, “Everyone has been very gracious, but in my heart, I wanted to have it all complete.”
Goldberg’s ordination will take place over Memorial Day weekend and included a senior recital, titled Highlights of Synagogue Song from the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries. “It’s a sampling of songs from my favorite cantors from the last few centuries,” he says. An ordination ceremony followed.
The installation is scheduled for June 2 and Goldberg says he is excited to welcome some special guests to participate. “I know there are some things that will be a surprise, but I did invite the cantor from my home congregation in Dallas, Cantor Vicky Glikin, who I love. The president and CEO of my seminary, AJRCA, Rabbi Joshua Hoffman, will also be there.” He says he also will welcome local musician friends and mentors.
As with many things the last few years, Goldberg’s training has primarily taken place virtually. “AJRCA was one of the first schools to implement hybrid learning, but since I was in L.A. I attended in person. Then Covid hit, and everything became virtual. It wasn’t what I signed up for, but I appreciate that it exists and see the value in it,” he says, “It allows seminary to be accessible for a lot of people for whom it would never be.”
Although Goldberg has extensive musical training, he sees being a cantor as a lifestyle, rather than just another gig. “Being a cantor is not just being a musician, it’s a lot more than that,” he says. And his colleagues at Congregation Micah say the role is one he seems more than ready to fill. Rabbi Flip Rice says, “He is exactly what we wanted. He has excellent musical talent and plays a variety of instruments, but he is also very pastoral. He sees himself as part of the congregation, and a member of our clergy.”
This has been a year of firsts for Goldberg, including the High Holidays and starting Micahnections, the congregation’s young adult programming. “We didn’t really have anything for the 20s and 30s age group. It’s been nice seeing more and more of them coming on a regular basis.” He has also included some innovative programming in services. “The rabbis and the congregants have been willing to go on my musical detours,” he says. These have included a country music Shabbat, an 80s Shabbat, and a Debbie Friedman Shabbat.
Goldberg’s ability to inspire people to participate is something Rice says has enriched the congregation. “He could fill an entire room with his music. But he has engaged so many people and added so many other voices. He doesn’t feel he has to do it all himself.” Rice says Goldberg allows his B’rit Mitzvah students, and other congregants to have their moments to shine.
As Rice mentioned, the role of clergy extends beyond the walls of the synagogue and Goldberg says that has been a highlight of this first year. “I’ve been able to visit congregants in the hospital, or hospice, or in their homes, or funerals and shiva. Getting to know people on a personal basis has been very moving,” he says.
Beyond his cantorial duties, Goldberg has been enjoying other musical outlets, primarily in the Jewish world, with his colleagues in Nashville. But hopes to expand his musical experience going forward. “Most of my connection in the music world has been through friends, and friends of friends. There is just so much musical talent here and people who want to play.” He says often congregants are surprised to see a diverse array of musicians in services. “It’s fun to see the expressions on people’s faces when they see musicians they’ve never seen before.”
Now that the first year is nearly behind him, Goldberg says he plans to continue to grow the congregation’s virtual audience, and to improve the streaming of services. He says he wants to continue to focus on both in reach and outreach and has recently collaborated with Eastside Tribe on a tot Shabbat program. “I just want to continue making connections in the community and letting people know about Micah and continuing to innovate and bring our message to as many people in Nashville as possible.”
Cantor Josh Goldberg’s formal installation at Congregation Micah will be June 2. For more information visit www.congregationmicah.org.