Cantor Kenneth Blatt
Title: Cantor of Temple Beth Kodesh, Boynton Beach, with average weekend attendance of 100-225.
Other job experience: Instructor of theater at Miami Dade College, Kendall; former dentist, TV actor, concert singer, theater teacher at Touro College, New York.
Education: Degree in biology from Queens College, New York; degree in dental medicine, University of Pennsylvania; master's degree in fine arts, Florida Atlantic University; doctorate in theater, Michigan State University.
Personal: Age 57. Born in New York.
Q. You've been through so many jobs. Anything tie them together?
A. Dentistry is very stressful. Almost anything else is easier. For the others, interest in theater and acting and singing are helpful in a cantor job. It's all performing and communicating.
Q. So why did you want to become a cantor?
A. Seven or eight years into being a professional singer, my sister suggested to me that I consider studying to be a cantor. I felt I didn't have the skills, but I looked into it. Then as I did the training, I decided I could do it. I started to perform Passover Seders and High Holy Days services.
I studied with Cantor Leon Berger in Brooklyn, then Rabbi Charles Agin, dean of the School of Sacred Music, Woodmere, N.Y. Two and a half years ago, I applied for the job at Beth Kodesh.
Q. How has it turned out?
A. The more you do, the more you enjoy. And I still sing. I was just in a play in Miami, and I still teach.
Q. What do you like most about being a cantor?
A. Compared to doing a show or concert, the feedback from the people, the appreciation, is so much greater. It could be that they know you personally.
Q. Hardest part?
A. The initial learning of the vast amount of music. Singing in the Sabbath service is like 40-50 songs, with completely different melodies. It's a challenge on your memory. And it's a cappella. In a Conservative synagogue, there's no accompaniment and no introduction. You have to be in the right key.
Q. What do you do to relax?
A. I go to theater. I like to walk and exercise, play tennis.
Q. What book have you been recommending lately?
A. I'm reading a fascinating book right now: Jews, God and History, by Max I. Dimont. He makes something that could be dry and dull so interesting. Makes things that happened 2,000 years ago alive.
Q. Favorite vacation spot?
A. I've been to the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, three or four times. It's a beautiful town done in a woody Tudor style. And they do all kinds of theater, from the 1890s to the 1930s — musicals, comedies, dramatic pieces. You can see three or four shows in a week.
Q. Favorite TV shows?
A. I enjoyed The Sopranos, for the family relationships. And I enjoyed The Tudors last year on Showtime. I love that era. I've been in many Shakespearean plays.
Q. Favorite film(s)?
A.The Lion in Winter. Fascinating stuff, about a dysfunctional family. I show it in my classes. Also Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The script is such a great emotional roller coaster. My favorite musical is My Fair Lady. It's the perfect musical.
Q. Favorite music? Favorite performer(s)?
A. Broadway is my favorite, but I like the older rock 'n' roll: Bobby Darin, Elvis Presley, even the Beatles.
Q. Do you have a treasured possession?
A. I have some jewelry given me by my mother. One is my bar mitzvah ring. It was an engagement ring that she gave to my father.
Q. What one thing would you change about yourself?
A. I wish I'd done this a little earlier. I practiced dentistry for 13 or 14 years, and I didn't enjoy it.
Q. What's the most important thing you've ever learned?
A. I think it's really important to appreciate your family. And to express gratitude.
Q. Have you ever doubted your faith?
A. I think everybody questions. When you see what happens in the world, like the Holocaust, or losing a loved one, I think everybody asks "Why?" or "How could it happen?"
Q. How was that doubt resolved?
A. I think just time. Time heals. You look at things from a different perspective. And from bad things, you can see good things happen.
— JAMES D. DAVIS
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