Cantor David Reinwald was “looking for a way to continue doing music for the rest of my life and use music to impact people’s lives” when he decided on his career path in his early days of college. The talented, knowledgeable, and personable Chicago native, who started at Temple Beth Sholom in July, likes the idea that he gets to be a “teacher, musician, singer, choir director, and composer. People want it and expect it, and it keeps the job lively when there’s always something new around the corner.”
Reinwald especially enjoys the time he spends with Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, teaching them one-on-one, and taking the journey with them “from day one to the big moment,” he said. He likes to “make a difference, point students in the right direction, and help the students push themselves to their highest level.” He believes he has a knack for meeting students where they are, a lesson he learned from his mother, a special education teacher.
Reinwald, who sang in the High Holy Day choir at his home congregation in Chicago when he was growing up, began his own musical journey by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in music and Jewish studies from Indiana University – Bloomington and becoming invested as a cantor by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York City in 2006. Prior to joining the TBS staff, Reinwald served Temple Anshe Sholom of Olympia Fields, IL, Congregation Beth Israel of Austin, Texas, and Temple Beth-El of Jersey City, New Jersey. He also spent a summer working as a hospital chaplain at Beth Israel Hospital in NYC’s East Village. A member of the American Conference of Cantors, Reinwald also serves as the co-chair of the student recruitment committee of the HUC-JIR School of Sacred Music Alumni Association.
“My musical taste is all over the spectrum and all genres – from pop, classical, country, and jazz, as well as musical theater,” Reinwald said. With a passion for music of all styles, he considers himself a music aficionado.
Reinwald loves connecting with people through the universal language of music. He traces Reform music back to the 1820s in Vienna. Inspired by Jewish and cantorial music that is both classic and contemporary, he has a specialization in music written and performed during the Holocaust. Using his master’s thesis research, he created an hour-long transformative experience and performance entitled Cabaret of the Holocaust: Notes of Satire from the Stages, Cafes, and Streets of the Ghettos.
“It’s important to pay tribute to the history of music that has come before us, Reinwald explained. “Trying to make it all connect and click is a challenge. We can understand why music sounds the way it does if we appreciate what was going on at the time. While musical tastes vary, it is often music that connects people to moments of prayer, meditation and majesty.”
As a Reform cantor, he has been most drawn to Judaism by its rich heritage of music and believes that Debbie Friedman, Salamone Rossi, Max Janowski, Ben Steinberg, Sheva, Louis Lewandowski have all have made a remarkable impact on the music of the synagogue, each as a sign of his or her own times. “Each composed or composes music that reflects the music heard in secular society, demonstrating that people always want to have a musical connection to Jewish tradition that is modern and familiar, and that there is much room for musical change and growth in Judaism,” Reinwald said. “There’s not necessarily one right way to write Jewish music.”
Reinwald hopes to encourage a sense of music appreciation at his new congregation, so that people can “discover the intent and purpose of the composer and get invested in the music.” He hopes that the congregants will “appreciate the value of what’s there and what the composer is trying to say.”
Saying that the music at Temple Beth Sholom has an eclectic base that reflects his own varied tastes, Reinwald is hoping to put his own touch on things at services and at camp. “I want to take tradition and add a new layer, not necessarily changing what is already there,” he explained. “I never want to make people think they’re not at home. We can only figure out over time with the input of the rabbi and the lay leaders how to provide the best mix of music to fit the congregation’s needs and figure out what’s best for the congregation.”
Reinwald believes that today’s cantors have been given a great opportunity to mix up the music they use. He said, “There is such a treasure of music to choose from, with no reason to let any of it go to waste. This means mixing music of different eras and of different cultural backgrounds. The more you mix things up, the more you’re likely to offer something that everybody is going to like.”
In working with the Temple Beth Sholom choir, Reinwald is trying to help choir members to use the music “to create a shape.” He believes that it is important to take as much time as possible to learn each piece, look at all the minor details, and create the maximum impact.
Reinwald also plans to teach classes about understanding prayers and appreciating music to other congregants. A new, two-year adult B’Nai Mitzvah program, including Hebrew, liturgy, Jewish history, and trope, will be starting in the fall. The cantor hopes to get all of the participants to teach something of their own to the class “to give people more ownership and create their own family within the congregation.” He also wants to reach out to the broader Jewish community of Orange County to “make connections and engage in tikkun olam.”
Reinwald, who is enjoying the sunshine and atmosphere of California as well as the challenge of starting something new, concluded, “I take great honor in being a keeper of the great and elaborate musical tradition we have as Jews.”