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Pioneering Cantor Joins Gay Synagogue

Pioneering Cantor Joins Gay Synagogue

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Los Angeles LGBT synagogue Beth Chayim Chadashim has a new cantor -- the first one ordained in Germany since the Holocaust.

Juval Porat (pictured) was officially installed in the position June 18. The cantor's job is to lead the congregation in musical prayer.

"The first German cantor -- and he's gay, and he's cute!" Maggie Anton Parkhurst, a member of the synagogue's board, told the Los Angeles Times.

Porat, 31, was born in Israel but has spent about half his life in Germany. He studied to become an architect and worked briefly as one in Berlin, but after serving as a nonordained cantor at various synagogues, he decided to change his profession. He was the first cantorial student at Abraham Geiger College, the first Jewish seminary established in Germany after World War II.

Beth Chayim Chadashim member Bruce Maxwell, now the congregation's president, met Porat in Berlin in 2008 and suggested he apply for a temporary position as the synagogue's cantor, and that led eventually to the full-time job in which he was installed this month.

Porat told the Times that young Jews are thriving in Germany despite the country's tragic history. The nation's Jewish population is small but growing, including not only descendants of Holocaust survivors but also immigrants. "Berlin is full of young Israelis," he said. He never would have expected to move to Los Angeles, he added, "but the opportunity was quite exciting, so I said yes."

He has had to adjust to the fact that Los Angeles is less pedestrian-friendly than Berlin, and he's now shopping for a car. Maxwell predicted that this purchase would smooth Porat's transition: "When he has wheels he'll be like any other young professional in L.A."

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