|Hazzan Menes accepts position in Las Vegas|
|Written by Beth Lipoff, Contributing Writer|
|Thursday, May 10 2012 11:00|
Congregation Beth Shalom will be seeing a summer of changes in its clergy. In addition to getting a new rabbi, Hazzan Robert Menes will be leaving for a new job in Las Vegas.
Hazzan Menes has been with the congregation for the last six years. Before coming here, he was an agricultural engineer in Victoria, British Columbia, then studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary and became a part-time cantor in the New York City area.
“I’m the luckiest person I know, because when I saw my calling as being an agricultural engineer, I thought, ‘This is it.’ In Victoria, I got involved in the synagogue. I got tired of my job, and it was twice in my life I found careers that were my calling,” he said.
He will be moving to Temple Beth Sholom in Summerlin, a suburb of Las Vegas, in July. The Conservative congregation is the oldest in the state of Nevada.
“I see tremendous opportunity in Las Vegas. It’s actually very similar to Beth Shalom here,” he said. “The rabbi is committed to engaging people any way we can.”
One of the focuses on his new position will be to integrate more instrumental music into religious services.
“I’m not averse to using electric guitar — maybe some people will hook into that. I want to get out of (using) elevator music,” he said.
He will also be working with a youth choir and work to some extent with the supplemental Hebrew school.
“Music links that emotional side to the intellectual side of Judaism. I don’t think Judaism would have this kind of pull without music. Music without the thought is not as fulfilling — I need both,” he said. “I try to show that a cantor is more than a singer, not just someone who uses music in the service. That’s the smallest part of what I do.”
Hazzan Menes said he will miss his friends, students and others in the Kansas City Jewish community when he leaves.
“There are a few Bar and Bat Mitzvahs that stick out in my mind, where the student made a unique effort to do something special and succeeded. I will remember my lunch and learn class — we’ve had so many great discussions over the last few years. It’s been tremendously rewarding,” he said.
The congregation will also miss him.
“The cantorial skill that he brings to leading the services, his enthusiasm for what he does — that’s a very infectious type of enthusiasm. His skills in the traditional cantorial fields are evident to everyone and anyone who attends any of the services he leads,” said Rabbi Alan Cohen. “He is a mensch. He’s been a good person to work with.”
The congregation recently decided to redefine the role and responsibilities of the hazzan.
“Because that person is being asked to have a skill set that will allow that person to develop and oversee the educational programs, we might have to relinquish a bit the quality of the voice he has (when hiring a new person),” Rabbi Cohen said.
Overall, Hazzan Menes has enjoyed his time in Kansas City and is proud of the work he’s done making more Torah study accessible to the community online. He will leave his sound files of such work accessible to the Jewish community after he leaves.
“It’s been a good experience. It hasn’t been without ups and downs, but what I take away is what I learned from the people,” he said.