By Rachel Dobkin
As of Aug. 1, Judy Merrick is the new Cantor of the Plainview Jewish Center. Merrick takes on this role with great enthusiasm as the second female Cantor of the synagogue. With her upbeat musical background and her guitar, Merrick is bound for a fresh new take on her role in the clergy.
Merrick was born and raised in Israel, descending from a Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz [father]. She is proud of her heritage and believes her native language of Hebrew adds an authentic touch to her songs of prayer.
Merrick has been a singer since she was four years old, and started playing guitar at age 13 after it was gifted at her Bat Mitzvah. In her 20s, Merrick moved to New York City with dreams of being a performer. Once she settled down with her family in Huntington, her father suggested she work for the Huntington Jewish Center, where she later taught music to young children. Merrick also started to perform as an Israeli singer around the same time, with her cabaret show “Israel Up Close and Personal”.
Plainview Jewish Center will be Merrick’s third synagogue as a Cantor. In 2000, Merrick became the music director for Temple Sinai of Roslyn where she began her learning from the Cantor of the synagogue. From 2006-12, Merrick held her first Cantor position at Temple Beth Sholom in Smithtown. Then from 2013-2018, she was the Cantor at a small temple in Cold Spring Harbor, Kehilat Shalom Synagogue.
Once the pandemic hit, Merrick needed to find something to fill her time, so she took up Jazz and started a music group called, “The Judy Merrick Trio”. Merrick is the vocalist of the group. She had plans to retire and gig around with her jazz trio until the Plainview Jewish Center called. This had been the third time in three years that they had called to offer her the position. Although she had performed for the High Holidays at the center, she was nervous to take on such a big role since the synagogue was so large.
Merrick thought to herself, “This keeps coming to me, if it’s coming to me, then it’s beyond me. It’s from God.” So, she took the position.
Merrick is the change that the Plainview Jewish Center is looking for. Most of the big synagogues across Long Island have male Cantors. “For a woman to take the position, it’s a big deal. I’m very honored,” said Merrick.
Merrick said she will bring a “new energy” with her guitar and her interactive, folk style. She believes this is what the community needs right now to attract new, young families. Merrick also believes the community will greatly benefit from this type of interaction after a year of virtual observations and activities.
The energy Merrick hopes to spread stems from more than just her music. “For me as an Israeli girl, that really grew up in Israel, a daughter of a Holocaust survivor, it’s very meaningful to be able to bring the Jewish heritage [and humility of the country to America] …it’s a big mission and I definitely see myself as a messenger.”
—Rachel Dobkin is a contributing writer for Anton Media Group