Congregation Beth El’s dynamic new cantor leads in music and social justice 

April 2023

Cantor Vera Broekhuysen

We are extremely pleased to announce that Vera Broekhuysen will become Beth El’s full-time cantor this July to lead us in song and spirit in partnership with Rabbi Joshua Breindel. She has been serving as cantor at Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill since 2016 and spiritual leader since 2018.

“Beth El thrills to song and to social justice — these are my own two governing Jewish passions, and it is a deep blessing to begin a job centered around them in a community with such a rich history of engaged, creative ritual and study,” Cantor Vera said. “I’m overjoyed to begin my work at Beth El this summer and to immerse in this community’s energy, to enter into holy partnership with this community and with my dear colleague Rabbi Joshua Breindel, to get to know members and learn beloved customs and melodies and the calls to action that stir Beth El’s blood, and to study and create Torah together.”

In her previous congregation, Cantor Vera led services, created musical programming, and directed the community’s choir. In addition, she headed up Torah study and b’nai mitzvah tutoring, and developed numerous multisession Adult Education courses. She participates in T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, serves on the clergy advisory board of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, and is an advisory board member of the Rabbinical & Cantorial Cabinet of J Street. In 2018, she won the MICAH (Ministry in Community Action Honoree) Award for her work in immigration justice with the Merrimack Valley Interfaith Sanctuary Network.

 “I’m delighted to find a new partner in Cantor Vera,” said Rabbi Breindel. “Her wisdom, compassion and genuine love for Jewish music and spirituality are profound gifts that she freely shares. Her ability to bring people together in song honors Beth El’s past and will keep us joyous and vibrant through the years to come!”

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Cantor Vera into our community,” said Michelle Fineblum, president of Beth El’s Board of Directors. “She brings warmth and an ability to engage congregants of all ages. Congregants have also been struck by her musicality and her depth of Jewish knowledge and thinking. Cantor Vera and Rabbi Josh have a wonderful rapport, and will be terrific partners.”

Beth El’s new cantor received a bachelor’s degree in music history and theory from the University of Toronto in 2007. She was ordained as a cantor and received a master’s degree in Jewish education from Hebrew College in 2016. Cantor Vera succeeds Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler, who retired in 2021 after serving for more than 30 years at Beth El.