Cantor Tamara Wolfson: Ten Years Later (Part 2)

Cantor Tamara Wolfson: Ten Years Later (Part 2)

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Jonah’s death ten years ago commenced a journey for many of us that has been filled with sadness (of course) but also with love — so much love. With this campaign, “10 Years Later,” you’re invited to spend some time with some of Jonah’s best friends and teachers.

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Meet Cantor Tamara Wolfson.

Tamara was born and raised in New York where from an early age she fell in love with music, theatre, and Judaism. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Jewish Studies from American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Tamara began her cantorial studies at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. After her ordination in May 2018, Tamara moved to London and began serving as Cantor of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue and as Spiritual Leader of Kehillah North London. She is the first female cantor in the Liberal movement in the U.K. and is a proud member of both the American Conference of Cantors and the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors.

Tamara writes:

A mentor of mine recently gave me the most important advice I’ve received in a long time: “Be brave, not perfect.” It’s been over a decade since I last saw Jonah, but he may as well have been the one to utter those words to me that day. Brave, not perfect.The Jonah I knew was fun-loving, thoughtful, open-hearted and generous. Above all, he was brave in a way I always admired: brave enough to be goofy, to improvise, to take risks. Nowhere was this more evident than at the Play Group Theatre, where I first met and worked with Jonah. He threw himself with wild abandon into every part he played. But even more impressively, when he forgot his lines — which happened quite a bit — he would deliver his incorrect, improvised lines so confidently that any onlooker would think his lines were scripted.

I frequently think about the year that Jonah and I were paired together for a ballroom dancing scene during one of our shows together at PGT. I avoid dancing at all costs if I can help it; my two left feet and total lack of coordination have never done me any favors. But Jonah wouldn’t take no for an answer, and to this day I thank him for it. Within minutes, he had me laughing and twirling around the studio with him. He wasn’t a world-class dancer either, but he was brave — and his bravery was contagious. With him, I forgot my two left feet and remembered to smile. On the night of the show, our dance was brilliant. But even if it hadn’t been brilliant, Jonah would have been the first to remind me that as long as it was fun, it didn’t need to be flawless. And as long as we were brave, we didn’t need to be perfect.

Whenever I envision Jonah, I see his infectious grin and the unmistakable twinkle in his eye. He was the class clown in our cast, and beloved by absolutely everybody in the company. Those who didn’t know him wanted to know him. I remember ten of us crowding onto a couch backstage during a dress rehearsal, with Jonah right in the middle of everyone, captivating us with his stories, impressions, and jokes. There was a magnetism about him, but he never begged to be the star of the show. He was certainly hard to miss, but he could be quietly captivating too. And for all his bravery, he was humble and kind. He had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know.

These are the things about Jonah that I carry with me, in my heart that feels not even half as big as his was. I try to emulate the twinkle in his eye, the mischief in his smile, and the skill with which he made everyone feel like they meant the world to him. But mostly, I try to be as brave as he was. In my work as a Cantor, he shows up every day to inspire me. I try to be goofier with the kids I teach, more fearless when I sing or play a wrong note with the choir, and more committed to the countless mistakes I make as I adjust to my first year in this role. Of course, there is a loud, relentless voice in my head that berates me for not being perfect. I’m not sure that voice will ever go away. But thanks to Jonah, there is a second voice in my head — his — that reminds me to smile and laugh, breathe, and be brave.


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We all miss that boy. It’ll probably always hurt that he’s gone. But he left us so much, and that’s what these writings express. Watch for them in emails and postings throughout the month. Our hope is that these stories will inspire you to make your gift at to help us help kids build whole, healthy lives.We continue to miss Jonah and to feel grateful: a) that we had him in our lives; and, b) that he’s inspired us to do good stuff in his name. We’re incredibly honored that you’ve joined us in our work and thank you in advance for donating to our Summer Campaign.

Very sincerely,
Ellen, Billy, Aiden, Katie and Mark
The Jonah Maccabee Foundation

ALSO ALSO ALSO … The Jonah Maccabee Foundation is so proud to now be the beneficiaries of the proceeds from four exceptional musical recordings:

“So Is Life” was recorded by (ta da!) So Is Life, which includes Dan Nichols, Josh Nelson, Cantor Rosalie Boxt and Cantor Ellen Dreskin. It’s a magnificent album and is available to you as a download and on CD (if anyone still has a CD player). You can order So Is Life right here.

And now, you can order the music of Beged Kefet (which, for you youngsters out there, was a Jewish performance group that Ellen and Billy were in for a good 20 years or so). Beged Kefet recorded three albums, all now available to you! Our thanks to the members of Beged Kefet — Beth Sher, Cantor Leon Sher, Cantor Riki Lippitz, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Rabbi Les Bronstein and Rabbi Billy Dreskin — for allowing us to use the proceeds from their three recordings to help kids build whole, healthy lives. You can order your Beged Kefet digital downloads here.

BillyCantor Tamara Wolfson: Ten Years Later (Part 2)

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