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Temple Beth Ami welcomes new cantor

Posted: August 20, 2010 5:12 p.m.
Updated: August 21, 2010 4:30 a.m.
Kenny Ellis joined Temple Beth Ami as its cantor in July. Kenny Ellis joined Temple Beth Ami as its cantor in July.
Kenny Ellis joined Temple Beth Ami as its cantor in July.


Kenny Ellis stood on the bimah at Temple Beth Ami and sang out: “How good it is, and how pleasant, when we dwell together in unity.”

As he looked out into the unfamiliar congregation, he was shocked to see other mouths moving. He wasn’t the only person singing the hymn, “Hineh Mah Tov,” based on Psalm 133. 

“That was new and different; very exciting,” Ellis said. “The people at Temple Beth Ami are incredible singers. I have my work cut out for me.”

Ellis has led the music at Temple Beth Ami’s service since July, when he debuted as the synagogue’s cantor.

“My job is to take the liturgy from the text and bring them to life musically,” he said. “It’s one thing to say a poem, it’s another to sing it.”

Singing lifts prayers up, he said. 

Ellis brings decades of religious musical experience to Temple Beth Ami, in Newhall.

He holds a degree in theater arts from Temple University and a certificate of Hebrew Education from Gratz College. He hosted and produced a weekly Israeli radio program in Philadelphia. He’s appeared at major resorts, hotels, Jewish
community centers and synagogues.

He’s been featured on television, the radio, at the Improv, the Laugh Factory and much more.

The Agoura Hills husband and father also created and directed the nonprofit Jewish Media Workshop, providing young adults with television-production classes.

Before joining Temple Beth Ami, he was the cantor at Temple Beth Haverim in Agoura Hills for 15 years. In 2005, he released a big ban CD on the Favored Nations label called “Hanukkah Swings!” His “Swingin’ Driedel” music video on YouTube has elicited over 85,000 views.

Temple Beth Ami members have welcomed Ellis’ theatrical and diverse musical experience, especially as the High Holidays draw near.

“Every cantor has a different vision, different feel,” he said.

Less than a month on the job and Ellis is already impressed by Temple Beth Ami’s willingness to join him in chanting singing.

Listening to the voices, he said, “lifts h im up higher.”


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