Music is mystical

ArtArts and CultureEducationDelray BeachReligious EducationBilly Joel

Cantor David Presler

Title: Cantor, Temple Emeth, Delray Beach.

Other job experience: Served as cantor at synagogues in New York for 28 years; former music teacher at New York City public schools.

Other community posts: Private voice teacher.

Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees in music, Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College, N.Y.; specialist certificate in Jewish educational leadership, Yeshiva University; doctoral candidate in Jewish education and administration, Yeshiva University.

Personal: 49.

Family: Married to Shira, an actress, singer and parttime cantor for High Holy Days. No children.

 

How did you get into your vocation?

I was having a conference with my dad and he said, "Why don't you become a cantor?" I started on my journey. It was really the only marketable skill I had.

If you couldn't be a cantor, what would you be?

A songleader, a dancer, maybe a pop star or a movie star. I keep the inner child alive. It ain't over yet.

Do you have an overall philosophy of ministry?

The clergy set the tone for the prayer and for the level on which people will open their hearts. Music is mystical and meant to be an inspiration. People get connected through the ancient melodies. If I'm focused on God, and on a really honest prayer, the congregants can tune in. God can be in the room, but the leader has to be the conduit.

How do you like to relax?

Swimming, nature, composing, good food, friends. And in a way, performing. It's a of a release.

What's your favorite cuisine?

I like soups. I would love to eat raw food, but it's not so easy to find raw food restaurants around.

Favorite pastime?

I'm a bit of an undercover opera singer. When I meet people, I burst out in song. And my wife and I perform as David and Shira. We performed Tin Pan Alley songs at the Delray Beach Playhouse this year. We also do some opera duets. Her mother was a star of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

What's your favorite vacation spot?

I like the West, like Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon. It seems otherworldly.

Favorite music? Favorite performer(s)?

Billy Joel was my idol. He spoke to the heart. His song "James" was the most powerful ever written.

Later on, I became steeped in classical music: Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin.

If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

You know, I don't know that I would want to. I feel we have the opportunity to ask God questions every day, and should ask for guidance whenever we need it. And we should feel God is close to us.

Your most memorable spiritual experience?

I've had many experiences, like and saying the priestly blessings on Sabbath. The way the words are set by the sages -- the specific choice and order -- have a great spiritual power to them. Which is why we need to pray those specific prayers. Some of the texts have been changed by modern editors, and they might have sapped the power.

Is there one thing you can't stand?

I can't the government being irresponsible for what they should be responsible for: taking care of the homeless, spending with integrity, taking a stand for what's right. There are huge integrity issues with money.

Have you ever doubted your faith?

In my high school years, I was questioning. I still question, even though I've been a cantor for 30 years. Is he really there? Who is he? Am I really connecting to someone out there?

How is that doubt resolved?

Sometimes it's just being amid other people who are praying and connecting. Sometimes it's just looking at it over again. Like learning to play a scale over and again. Sometimes, asking if God is there is an opportunity to reaffirm my faith on a deeper level.


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