Cantor Sherwood Goffin of YU’s Belz School of Jewish Music Aims to Spark a New Generation of Ba’al Tefillahs

Cantor Sherwood Goffin produced the MP3 CD 'Be a Ba'al Tefillah.'

Jun 4, 2008 — Lay leaders of Jewish prayer services anywhere in the world can learn the precise melodies and traditional format of the Shabbat prayers from a new MP3 CD, Be a Ba’al Tefillah, produced by Cantor Sherwood Goffin ‘63Y, ‘66 BZ, a faculty member of Yeshiva University’s Belz School of Jewish Music and cantor of Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City.

The MP3 CD, published by Judaic software developer Davka, includes the prayers for Kabbalat Shabbat [the start of Shabbat] through Ma’ariv [evening prayers] on Friday night to Shacharit [morning prayers] and Mussaf [additional prayers] on Shabbat morning, totaling 268 tracks and five and half hours of music. It is based on the curriculum of the Belz School, compiled and composed by Cantor Bernard Beer YH, ‘65BZ, the school’s director, edited by Cantor Goffin, and with piano accompaniment by Cantor Eric Freeman ‘99Y, assistant to the director of Belz.

“I hope the project will engender a new generation of people who know how to lead prayers properly,” Cantor Goffin said. “We are trying to foster a resurgence of interest in our rich and time-honored liturgy.”

The MP3 CD encompasses the prayers and melodies exactly as they are meant to be recited in synagogues. Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Nathan and Vivian Fink Distinguished Professor of Talmud at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and Rosh Kollel in its Marcos and Adina Katz Kollel, permitted the use of God’s full name in the MP3 CD (Jewish law usually only permits the use of God’s name during prayers), so as to avoid confusion for those learning to lead the prayers.

Be a Ba’al Tefillah includes both Ashkenazic and Sephardic pronunciation of the prayers, as well as a manual written by Cantor Goffin and downloadable as a PDF.

The MP3 CD has received positive reviews from The Jerusalem Post, Washington Jewish Week, and the New York Jewish Week.

The MP3 CD can be purchased for $39.95 at local Hebrew bookstores, or by calling the Belz School at (212) 960-5353, or e-mailing belzschool@aol.com, or writing to Cantor Goffin at 500 W. 185th Street, New York, NY 10033. Cost for RIETS alumni is $31.50, which includes shipping. All non-RIETS purchasers will pay $39.95, plus $1.50 shipping.

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