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Cantor Jamie Gloth has been a rock of stability in the midst of change during his 12 years at Congregation B'nai Israel.
The music and worship leader of the Conservative Jewish synagogue has worked with four different rabbis during his tenure, and he helped lead the way when the congregation moved from Toledo to its new facility in Sylvania four years ago.
But the cantor's time in the Toledo area will come to an end Saturday, as he leaves B'nai Israel to join the staff of Beth El Synagogue Center, in New Rochelle, N.Y., starting Aug. 1.
"I'm excited but I'm also sad to leave," Cantor Gloth said in an interview at his office. "This is my home. I've raised all four of my children here. And these people [the congregation] are my family. So it's bittersweet."
Looking back on his time in Toledo, what stands out the most, he said, is the congregation's transition in 2007 from an aging temple on Kenwood Boulevard in West Toledo to a new, $4 million synagogue on the campus of the Jewish Community Center in Sylvania.
"It was a huge undertaking, something nobody thought we could do," Cantor Gloth said. "And we did it and we did it well."
He was involved in the process from the start, expressing his ideas to the architect, Abraham Musher-Eizenman, who is a friend and a member of the synagogue, and to the various committees involved.
Among Cantor Gloth's contributions was having the sanctuary's Ner Tamid, or eternal light, connected to a natural gas line to provide a continuous supply of fuel for the flame.
"It was nice being a part of the whole process, from the town meetings to the fund-raising to attending the design meetings," he said. "It was fantastic just to watch that happen, to kind of get a front row seat for that."
His proudest achievement, the cantor said, has been working with students who were preparing for their bar and bat mitzvahs.
"I teach the sixth-grade Sunday school class, which is really almost a bar and bat mitvah prep class. It puts the bar and bat mitvah celebration into perspective vis-a-vis the whole Jewish life cycle," he said. "It's not just a day when you are supposed to do this, but why do you do this?"
The bar and bat mitzvah students then work with Cantor Gloth individually during their seventh-grade year, "and those one-on-one interactions have really been amazing for me, and I hope for the students."
He values the long-term relationships he has developed with the students, most of whom have kept in touch through the years. "They feel like part of my family," he said.
He also has worked to build bridges with the greater Toledo community, being involved in interfaith programs, lecturing on Judaism at local high schools and colleges, and participating in such cross-cultural programs as "Dancing with the Jewish Stars" and The Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim's annual Afro-Semitic Experience concert.
Cantor Gloth, 41, grew up in Akron, about a mile from the home of NBA superstar LeBron James.
He knew by age 12 that he wanted to be a cantor, a vocation that would allow him to combine his love of music and his love of Judaism.
His synagogue had hired a new cantor, Cantor Stephen Stein, when Cantor Gloth was 10, and he was invited to audition for the junior choir.
"My mother could not sing at all, my father can't sing at all, nobody in my family ever sang before," he said. Cantor Stein told him, "Jamie, you have a really nice voice -- which was news to me. … And it turns out I loved singing."
He majored in Judaic studies at the University of Cincinnati and received a master's in sacred music and his investiture as a cantor from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1997.
Cantor Gloth and his wife, Bina Carr, have four children, ages 12, 10, 8, and 5.
"His leaving will leave a great void for the community," said Rabbi Moshe Saks of B'nai Israel. "He's been here a long time and fostered a lot of relationships. He's been great to work with and has a great sense of humor. Jamie is a real professional and a partner in ministering to the congregation and to the community."
Contact David Yonke at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.