From X Factor to Chief Cantor of Denmark

Edan Tamler, 25, has the most unexpected job title for someone his age: He’s currently Denmark’s chief cantor, and during Jewish holidays that’s pretty much a full-time job.

So how did this American-Israeli (who has since appeared on the Israeli version of The X Factor) decide to dedicate his time to leading prayers in a tiny Jewish community in Europe?

He was born in New York and raised in Jamaica Estates, Queens. In 2012, when he was 15, after completing his second year at Ramaz High School, his family decided to make aliyah. The Tamlers moved to a community in the southern Galilee called Eshchar.

“After moving to Israel, I was recruited to participate in the first season of X-Factor in Israel,” he told The Jerusalem Post in a chat from Copenhagen. Tamler made it to the finals as part of a group called Fusion, which was assembled by the judges during the show.

“After moving to Israel, I was recruited to participate in the first season of X-Factor in Israel.”

Edan Tamler

“It was an incredible experience, which reinforced my dream of becoming a professional musician and made that prospect more tangible than ever,” he said of his experience on Israeli television. “I then signed a development contract with pop musician Ivri Lider, who was my mentor [on the show] and helped me grow as a singer-songwriter and artist,” he explained.

A year later, his musical journey continued in a surprising direction, as lead singer of the IDF orchestra “where I served as the ceremonial voice at Israel’s annual commemorative and celebratory ceremonies in national level and abroad for three years”.

He shared that during his military service, he “felt like I lacked an outlet for Jewish expression. Ironically, the strong passion I had felt for Jewish culture and music in New York had not been so prevalent in my life in Israel. With that in mind, he turned to IDF Chief Cantor Shai Abramson for lessons from Chazzanut (Cantorial).

“He had become a friend and mentor early in my service, as we frequently shared the stage together at these national ceremonies; he sang El Maleh Rachamim, a memorial prayer in remembrance of those who had perished and I Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem,” he said. Tamler studied with Shai for over two years, “apart from being a fantastic teacher, mentor and friend, he also knew the ins and outs of the cantorial industry, helping me start finding work as a cantor and in religious choirs,” he explained. .

After the army, he returned to New York for a year to teach music at Ramaz Lower School and to reunite with his long-distance girlfriend Rachel Kastner, “who recently became my wife last month,” he said. he declared enthusiastically.

“During this time, I continued to grow as a cantor, educator and musician and when I returned to Israel, I had decided to enroll in the Cantorial Institute in Tel Aviv to learn under the tutelage of the great cantor Naftali Hershtik.”

His wife Rachel studied in Copenhagen in 2018 during a semester abroad. “Over this year, Rachel has found she loves the city, has met some amazing people and, especially for this story, has felt a deep connection to the local Jewish community,” Tamler said and explained that they had decided to go there as a couple later. year. During their trip, this long-distance couple dined with the Chief Rabbi of Denmark, Jair Melchior, and his family.

“He spontaneously asked me to lead the morning Shabbat service the next day,” Tamler recalled and added jokingly that “I’m sure Rachel had arranged everything in advance, seeing an opportunity for me to present my work”. He accepted the offer and surprisingly it turned out to be some kind of audition as the community was looking for a Cantor at the time.

“Rachel and I were moving to Tel Aviv and so the Danish Jewish community came up with an arrangement where I would be part-time, going to Copenhagen every month, to teach music and Judaism at the local Jewish school and lead services in the synagogue on Shabbat and holidays,” Tamler explained.

He began his role as chief cantor of the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen in 2019. “Our monthly schedule worked like a charm for several months and then COVID-19 hit,” he recalls.

He was then “separated”, as he called the situation, from the community for almost six months. “Fortunately, I was able to fly to Denmark in time for the 2020 major holiday and since then have been flying back and forth to Denmark for Jewish holidays and community events.”

The Danish Jewish community

The Danish Jewish community has a rich history and is deeply rooted in Danish society. Tamler shared that, for example, next month “Queen Margrethe II of Denmark will come to the synagogue to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Judaism in Denmark.”

He added that Copenhagen’s Jewish community “has a modern-Orthodox setting but is made up of around 1,000 Jews of all levels of affiliation. The synagogue building is almost 200 years old and incredibly well maintained, in large partly because Danish Jews and the Jewish community were largely protected from the Nazi occupation of Denmark during World War II.

During the war, Danish Jews were saved by escaping to neighboring neutral Sweden, where they continued to practice Judaism in their own way. “For this reason, the synagogue service today is very similar to what it was all those years ago,” Tamler said.

“The Jewish community in Copenhagen also has a rich history of Danish Jewish liturgy and music, and it is an important part of the identity of many members of the community,” Tamler enthused.

He explained that “Music is fascinating to listen to and read and it’s amazing how integral music can be to holding people together in a shared identity. I have spent hundreds of hours reading old sheet music and sifting through recordings over 50 years old in order to learn these melodies and preserve their place in the synagogue.

He said one of his favorite tunes is the local version of the prayer “Kol Nidre”, “which plays with more major scales than the more widely sung Ashkenazi version”.

He added that “besides the uniqueness of the melody, the Kol Nidre moment in the Great Synagogue is incredible and unlike anything I have experienced anywhere else. The eve of Yom Kippur is one of those nights when the synagogue is truly packed; Nearly 1,000 Danish Jews fill the pews, many standing in the same places as their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents so many years ago.”

“The Cantor stands facing the congregation, which is less common in Orthodox Jewish prayer spaces and the whole room sings and prays as one.”

In addition to his work as a cantor, Tamler also earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Reichman University. He therefore mainly travels to Copenhagen during the Jewish holidays and his semester holidays. “Rachel and I live in the Old North in Tel Aviv and I spend the rest of my time writing, producing and releasing original music, with my latest single Makom Prati (Personal Space) on Israel Radio last summer “, did he declare.

Tamler concluded that even after three years of work, “I’m still learning more and more local traditions and melodies, which I think is a great testament to the richness of Jewish culture and life in Denmark. “.

He added that “it is an honor to participate in the preservation of its existence and to play a role in strengthening the identity of Danish Jews through song and prayer.”

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