TORONTO — On the weekend of Nov. 1 and 2, Adath Israel Congregation, along with friends and cantorial colleagues, will pay tribute to Cantor A. Eliezer Kirshblum, chazzan, educator and community leader, on his retirement after 42 years with the congregation.
Kirshblum is believed to be the longest-serving cantor in Canada.
At a special Shabbat service, the aron kodesh in the shul’s main sanctuary will be dedicated to Kirshblum. Davening will be led by guest Cantor Paul Kowarsky, and the synagogue’s professional choir will be conducted by Charles Heller.
“The congregation is inaugurating the Cantor A. Eliezer Kirshblum Endowment Fund,” said Samuel Cohen, who is co-chairing the tribute with Ronald Appleby.
“This fund will enhance our congregation in ways close to Cantor Kirshblum’s heart, providing meaningful additional support and programming for youth and young families, education, music and other congregational purposes,” Cohen said.
“We know that the aron kodesh and the endowment fund will provide meaningful legacies of Eli’s magnificent lifetime contribution to our congregation,” he added.
“Cantor Kirshblum is not your everyday chazzan. He is a model of what a chazzan should be – he’s a community leader, an educator, a volunteer and a fun guy who is everybody’s friend.”
On Sunday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m., the Toronto Council of Hazzanim will present a musical tribute to Kirshblum at the synagogue, featuring 18 cantors from Israel, the United States and Toronto – from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform congregations.
Proceeds will go to Akim Israel, Chai Tikvah Foundation, Zareinu and the Toronto Cantorial Trust Fund.
Kirshblum served four terms as the president of the Toronto Council of Hazzanim and spearheaded educational seminars and concerts that raised funds for a variety of charities and institutions.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Kirshblum graduated from Yeshiva University. After spending a year in Israel, he attended YU’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Education and earned a master’s of science.
At the same time, he studied chazzanut with renowned Cantor David Kussevitsky.
In 1967, Kirshblum and his family moved to Toronto, where he became the cantor of Adath Israel.
Shortly thereafter, he organized a professional choir and a children’s choir.
He has also motivated a number of choir members to undertake cantorial training. Some became professional cantors and serve in congregations throughout North America.
“The children’s choirs has produced our daveners as well as motivated so many to pursue careers in rabbinate, cantorate, education, etc.,” Kirshblum said.
“Many of these children , after growing up, join our congregation with an appreciation of chazzanut, choral music, Jewish liturgy and nusach.”
His cantorial colleagues are full of praise for Kirshblum.
“Cantor Kirshblum has devoted his life’s work to ‘cantorial art’ and to the Toronto Council of Hazzanim,” said Cantor Eric Moses of Beth Sholom Synagogue.
“On a personal note,” he added, “I attribute my becoming a cantor to his guidance and support.”
With his interest in education, in 1973, Kirshblum became the educational director of his synagogue’s supplementary religious school. Twelve years ago, he organized the Community Hebrew High School, which serves the entire community.
Kirshblum also helped found and serves as chair of the Toronto Council of Hazzanim’s trust fund. As well, he serves on numerous boards and committees of many community institutions.
Kirshblum and his wife Linda have also led 12 bar/bat mitzvah family tours to Israel.
“Many of the children from these tours have ended up by taking their undergraduate and graduate studies in Israel, and some have married and made aliyah,” the cantor said.
He added that “while I will be retiring from the amud at Adath Israel Congregation, I plan to remain involved in the daily life of the synagogue.
“I have no regrets and will always remain open to new challenges that may present themselves, for I am surrounded by a wonderful family and friends, and I have truly been richly blessed by HaShem.”
The Kirshsblums have three children, Risa, Shari and Jonathan, as well as five grandchildren.
For information or tickets for the tribute, call 416-635-5340.