Hazzan Sally Heckelman
Do you ever wonder how you end up somewhere, doing something you never imagined you would be doing? Perhaps everything I have done up to this point has led me to this place. Yaakov’s famous words “God was in this place and I did not know it” resonate with me as I reach this pinnacle in my career path. I have come to realize that becoming a Hazzan is the fulfillment of my professional dream. I discovered my passion for leading prayer services after many years as an Early Childhood and Jewish Music Educator and Social Worker. Music is a way of connecting with people and singing prayers can uplift and touch our souls, helping us feel connected to God. Serving as a Hazzan seemed like a natural progression for the next chapter in my life.
The seeds for this journey were planted twelve years ago when the Rabbi at my synagogue, Rabbi Jonathan Maltzman, recognized my potential and asked me to consider becoming the High Holiday and Festival Chazzan for our congregation. I wondered, “How can I do this?” After discussing it with my family, I decided to take the leap. Sometimes in life, we don’t know what our next chapter will be, but we trust the process and listen to the voices of people who help guide, inspire, and instill confidence in us.
After several years of serving as a Shaliach Tzibur in my congregation, I began to wonder how I could make my davening leadership more meaningful. I was curious not just about the melodies but also about the order, the meaning, and the purpose of the prayers. As I was completing the Davennen’ Leadership Training Institute (DLTI), I realized I had begun my spiritual journey. I sampled a taste of Jewish Renewal and was driven to enroll in AOP’s Cantorial Program where I would learn Jewish liturgy rooted in traditional nusach, Sephardic/Mizrachi music, varied Judaic classes and Pastoral Training.
Along my journey, there have been many guides. I am grateful to Hazzan Jack Kessler for his inspiration, guidance, and encouragement. My learning was deepened by my teachers who challenged me and by my fellow students who were insightful and thought-provoking. I am privileged to serve a wonderful, supportive congregation, Kol Shalom. They have been with me every step of the way, giving me confidence and nourishing me with their love and appreciation.
I am especially grateful to my most cherished cheerleaders – my family. Early on, my parents, Jack and Sonnie Robinson, of blessed memory, instilled a deep love of Yiddishkeit and music in me, my brother, Gene and sister, Liz, z”l; we continue that legacy with our own families. Above all, I thank my husband, Dan, and our children Shira, Josh, Adina and Sara, along with their significant others, who are my most treasured blessings, inspiring me with their love, support, understanding, compassion, and encouragement.