Cantor Caitlin O’Sullivan Bromberg
Caitlin O’Sullivan was born and raised Catholic in California in a family with strong ties to the performing arts. She became fascinated by Judaism at the age of 12 (a good time for a girl to start studying for bat mitzvah!) and found her varied interests coalesce when she moved to New York after graduating from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in theater and a minor in anthropology. It was in New York that she first attended services at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, struck by how the liturgy blended an ancient culture and language with folk and art music to create a moving religious experience. “It was a life-changing moment. I became convinced I wanted, not only to become Jewish, but to be on the bima creating this sacred experience for others,” she recalled.
At Stephen Wise, a Reform congregation, she felt privileged to meet and be inspired by Rabbi Sally Priesand and Cantor Ellen Stettner: “I had female clergy role models from the beginning.” Their tutelage led to her Reform conversion after which she accepted her first cantorial soloist assignment there for the High Holy Days. After serving Stephen Wise Reform congregation as a part-time cantorial soloist for three years, her growing interests in Judaism, Jewish music and prayer led her to the world of Orthodox Judaism. Five years after her initial conversion, Cantor Bromberg completed an Orthodox conversion at the Young Israel of Boro Park in Brooklyn. Subsequent relocation to the Southwest for family reasons expanded her Jewish journey to the Reconstructionist, Jewish Renewal and Conservative movements, as well as to professional positions in marketing and public relations for the Jewish Federation. Cantor Bromberg became a Religious School teacher and found a cantorial mentor, Hazzan Ivor Lichterman, at Congregation Anshei Israel in Tucson, AZ. He, along with another of her spiritual mentors, Rabbi Thomas Louchheim, encouraged her to apply to the Miller Cantorial School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where in 1994, she began her formal study for religious leadership. She earned a master’s of sacred music and investiture as a hazzan (cantor) in 2000.
In her role as cantor of Temple Israel, she has many devoted followers among adults and youth alike. Through group and individual instruction, Cantor Bromberg has cultivated a love of ritual, nurturing growing numbers who are comfortable reading Torah, chanting Haftarah and leading portions of the Shabbat service. Over the years, she has introduced many different melodies and niggunim (wordless tunes) that have invited greater participation and promoted spirituality. She also works closely with the Music Committee to plan and implement a full calendar of events, such as performances of the Temple Israel choir during High Holiday services and at synagogue and interfaith gatherings; musical Kabbalat Shabbat services; and our Summer Music Fridays and Winter Music Saturdays concert series. She is forever on the lookout for classic and contemporary Jewish musical selections and new melodies to incorporate into regular worship, performances by the synagogue’s choir and special concerts she arranges with cantorial colleagues.
Cantor Bromberg is a member of both the Conservative Cantors Assembly and the Reform American Conference of Cantors. In addition to her duties at Temple Israel, she is coordinates the Introduction to Judaism course for the Union for Reform Judaism in New York. She is thrilled to be able to nurture others who wish to explore the multiple ways Judaism and Jewish music may enhance and enrich their lives.
Some thoughts from Cantor Bromberg
"Dear Wandering Children of Israel!"
If you are reading this, you are considering the possibility of becoming a member of Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center. Your reasons are as unique as you are, but they probably include a few possibilities that I could suggest. You are not currently a member of a synagogue but you think that it’s time, either to educate your growing children, and/or to enhance your life spiritually and socially. You are currently a member of a synagogue somewhere else, but you are looking for something different. Perhaps you feel a need for greater meaning in your life, and you want to be of service, to make your community and your world a better place, and to pass on those values. You may have a life partner whose Jewish or religious background is different from yours and you want to find a place to integrate those differences harmoniously. You may have attended Jewish services in other denominations of Judaism which don’t seem to fit anymore. You may be a seeker who has explored many spiritual practices and religious experiences outside of Judaism, and although you have been enriched by them….something seems to be calling you home. Temple Israel has something beyond what you can find at any other synagogue.
Temple Israel is full of people- members, clergy, and professional staff- who want more out of their lives than just a veneer of Jewish culture, meaning and connection. They want it to be real. They have realized that authentic, deep satisfaction comes, not from passively expecting it to be given to them, but by giving their own energy, time, resources, intelligence, curiosity and sincere, sustained effort. When the majority of people in a community act from this level of commitment, everything they do is more powerful, more fun, more beautiful and more real. Temple Israel members engage in study and leadership. We have more adults and young people chanting Torah on a regular basis than any community I have ever known. When Temple Israel members are needed - to renovate the Woodbine parsonage, to build a rain water harvesting system to make the synagogue more “green” -they are there. They don’t come empty-handed – their hands are filled with food, of course, but also with tools or prayerbooks - whatever is needed. Their warmth is not just for show. The children and young adults at Temple Israel are nurtured in their Jewish and personal growth, and many are loyal to and involved in the synagogue far beyond what is expected. Children and adults who learn differently are given the support that they need to learn, grow and participate.
Temple Israel is a place where what is good everywhere is just a little bit more so. That is what is meant by holy. This is an extra-ordinary, holy community. I hope you will consider becoming part of our family.
Cantor Caitlin Bromberg