Cantor David Berger
Cantor David Berger has been the cantor of KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation in Chicago, IL since the summer of 2014 and and is a member of the Executive Board of the American Conference of Cantors. Before that, he served as the cantor of Congregation Tikvat Jacob Beth Torah in Manhattan Beach, CA from 2009 -2014. Alongside his work at the synagogue, Cantor Berger is pursuing a PhD at the Chicago Theological Seminary in Medieval Rabbinics.
Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, Cantor Berger received a BA in Religious Studies with a focus in Jewish Studies from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 2001. After a summer spent teaching English in Kiryat Gat, Israel, Cantor Berger came to New York to begin his graduate studies. He completed an MA in Jewish Philosophy in 2003 at the Jewish Theological Seminary before continuing on to the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music for cantorial school where he received cantorial ordination in 2007. Most recently, Cantor Berger studied at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the Fellowship for Excellence in Jewish Education from 2011-2012.
While studying for his MA, Cantor Berger co-founded Kol Zimrah – an independent music-based monthly Shabbat minyan which continues to thrive on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. At HUC, he distinguished himself in his talent for traditional chazzanut (cantorial singing), twice winning the Cantor Israel Goldstein Prize. He also earned the Lawrence Hoffman Prize in Liturgy for his work in creative analysis of ritual. For his master’s thesis, Cantor Berger translated portions of Sefer Maharil, a 15th century legal text with a wealth of information about medieval Jewish music which had never been translated before.
Cantor Berger became the first full-time cantor of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, a synagogue for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in New York City in 2007 after serving for two years as cantorial intern (2005-2007), working in close partnership with Music Director Joyce Rosenzweig. In addition, to his tenure at CBST, Cantor Berger has served the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Jewish community in a number of ways. He volunteered extensively at the Jerusalem Open House (Jerusalem’s GLBT Community Center), served as faculty for the Nehirim GLBT Jewish spirituality retreat for three years, and in 2006, led services and taught at Queer Shabbaton in Amsterdam, Netherlands and most significantly, at WorldPride Jerusalem.
Recognized as an up and coming voice in the Jewish musical scene, Cantor Berger has been featured as a soloist and a scholar in residence at the North American Jewish Choral Festival. Reviewed by The Forward as “impeccable” for his performance at the CBST Shabbat Shirah concert, Cantor Berger has appeared in concerts in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Israel, London and Rome. His first CD, “Chalamti Chalom, I Dreamt a Dream” – a collection of Jewish peace songs, was praised as “eloquent” by Hadassah Magazine.
Cantor Berger is a sought after teacher and scholar on Jewish music – most recently leading webinars for the American Conference of Cantors and the Union for Reform Judaism, and teaching rabbinical students at both the American Jewish University and the Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles campus. He has served as an instructor in cantorial music at HUC Jerusalem (2011-12 academic year) and as a coach for the HUC-JIR Cantorial Certification program. He is especially interested in diverse Jewish musical and liturgical traditions from communities around the world.
Cantor Berger’s husband, Rabbi D’ror Chankin-Gould was ordained at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University and is currently serving as Assistant Rabbi at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, IL. Together they are the proud fathers of Matan.