Emma Maier, a Brawerman Elementary School graduate, was ordained as a cantor on May 7, 2023, a year after receiving her Master's degree in Sacred Music from the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College. We asked Emma about her formative years at Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Brawerman, the mentorship provided by Cantor Gurney, and what inspired her to become a cantor.
To be an ordained cantor is to transmit, honor, cherish, and share a storied, rich, chain of tradition. I’ve dreamt of becoming a cantor ever since I became a Bat Mitzvah. Then-president of the temple board, Richard Pachulski, remarked that “I should become a cantor one day… follow in Cantor Gurney’s footsteps.”
I grew up attending Brawerman West (back then there was only one Brawerman — been a few years!). I sang in the temple youth choir from first grade until I graduated from Milken Community High School. Cantor Gurney took me under his wing, teaching me nusach (traditional modes of chanting for specific moments in Jewish time) and mentoring me to this day.
My family, community, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, and Brawerman instilled a deep love of Judaism within me. I always loved Jewish studies classes…I loved the way these ancient texts made my mind bend in creative ways; the debate and discourse (machloket); the questions and deep thinking; the study in chevruta (pairs); and the sound of chatter in the beit midrash (house of study).
Recently, I found a note from my WBT pre-school teacher to my parents which read “Emma cannot stop humming and singing.” Needless to say, music and song have been a part of me for as long as I can remember.