Meet another member of South Florida's many-sided faith community. This week we're talking with Cantor Malcolm Arnold of Congregation Kol Tikvah, Parkland.
Q: How did you get into your vocation?
A: I had a career as an opera singer for 30 years. We decided to leave New York and raise our son in a place without the expenses of New York City. But in Florida, it became a challenge to run a career. I had several agents who died of AIDS, and all the auditions were in New York.
I wound up as associate director of Gold Coast Opera, and moved into producing as well as singing. A few years, a position opened at this synagogue. I was originally hired as choir director. After a month, they hired me as cantor.
Q: How has it worked out? It's very different working for a religious organization.
A: Yes, but it's a good different. Opera singing is a solitary existence. You do the show and go back to your hotel room. And after the show is over, you hope to get the next job. It's nice to be appreciated by the people I see all the time, and to make a difference in their lives.
Q: Do you have an overall philosophy of ministry?
A: Judaism is a religion of doing. The more you contribute to making the world a better place, the more you understand what God is. You create relationships and help bring about peace.
Q: What's the favorite part of your work?
A: The human contact, being there for people at their most vulnerable times: when they're sick, when they're mourning, when they're giving birth.
Q: What's the hardest part?
A: To keep my emotions in check. We've had some tragic deaths in our congregation. When you sing up there, you're tremendously moved. But you still have to do your job and be strong for the people who need you.
Q: How do you like to relax?
A: I have a red Audi A5 convertible. I go up and down the highway. It has Sirius radio. I play that.
Q: What book have you been recommending lately?
A: "Paris, Paris," by David Downey, about an expat from San Francisco who moved to Paris. It's a romantic approach to the city. And it has history and culture. I've been reading it a page at a time for about a year. I don't want it to end.
Q: What's your favorite vacation spot?
A: It's a toss-up between Paris and Como, Italy, which has an incredible lake surrounded by mountains and villas.
Q: Do you have any favorite TV shows?
Q: How about favorite film(s)?
Q: If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
A: I wouldn't ask. Isak Dinesen said God made the world round so he couldn't see too far down the road. I think life is a journey and we're here to figure it out along the way.
Q: Something most people don't know about you?
A: I used to be a skater. I was one of the skateguards at Rockefeller Center. When people fall over, you help them up.
Q: What one thing would you change about yourself?
A: If I could take 20 pounds and 20 years off, that would be a perfect combination.
Q: What do you wish people understood about you?
A: The decisions I come to are often based more on emotions than logic. That's a double-edged sword. It helps me empathize with people, but it makes me more vulnerable.
Q: What's the most important thing you've ever learned?
A: My father used to say that the only thing consistent in life is change. If you accept that, you can grow. Otherwise, you're stuck believing your way is the only way.
Q: When you feel down, how do you revive spiritually?
A: That's why we have Shabbat. When I leave services, all the problems of the week literally disappear.
James D. Davis
More about Arnold
Title: Cantor years at Congregation Kol Tikvah, Parkland.
Other job experience: Former opera singer at Dallas Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Palm Beach Opera.
Education: Degree in arts and humanities, with concentration in judaic studies, at Florida Atlantic University.
Personal: 58. Born in New York City, raised in Great Neck.
Family: Married to Bonnie, public information officer for South Florida Regional Transporation Authority. One son.