I first met her in the spring of ’98. Congregation Beth Israel needed a new Cantor, and she came to interview. I was the new rabbi and part of the committee assigned the task of selecting my new pulpit partner.
Pamela sang well, but it was her spiritual essence that captured me. Some of the committee members preferred the voice of one of the other interviewees. But the murmuring of my heart became a drumbeat: Pamela, Pamela, Pamela.
I had not planned to insinuate my opinion too heavily into the deliberations. After all the lay people engaged the Cantor and she would be there to lead – not simply work with me – as our prayer leader. Plus, I had not yet been there a year. I should express myself in a low-key way.
But I felt my very future was at stake.
And so, I was insistent.
“The other Cantor also has a fine voice,” I acknowledged, “but I have thirty plus years of pulpit intuition calling to me that Pamela Siskin should be our Cantor.”
Looking back, I am so glad I was assertive. More importantly, I know everyone else in the congregation is as well.
We worked together for thirteen years. Her voice, her spiritual presence, and her work ethic all inspired me. And that just speaks to her role on the pulpit.
Off the pulpit, she was if anything, even more amazing. She came to my office shortly after she arrived and announced, “We have to have a program for Seniors,” and she proceeded to outline an ambitious agenda including a discussion, a luncheon and a program.
“Great,” I said. “Let’s do this once a month.”
“No,” she answered, “we shall do this every week.” And she did. Under her direction SAGE (I always forget what the letters stand for) became the best senior program I have ever seen. It drew an enthusiastic crowd every week. It was a centerpiece of the lives of those who attended.
I marvel at Pamela Siskin’s creativity and musicianship. Purim, under her direction, became a “third High Holy Day” at Congregation Beth Israel.
One of the most joyous experiences for me in my retirement congregation in Florida was when Cantor Siskin guest-starred in our 2018 Purim celebration.
Most recently, one of Pamela’s dear cantorial friends has fallen on hard times. But it is no surprise to me that Pamela is spearheading a major fund-raising effort to help her out.
Looking back over my career at age 75, I gratefully count many blessings. High on the list has been the privilege of sharing a pulpit, many confidences and my innermost hopes and dreams with Cantor Pamela Siskin.