Nathaniel D. Benjamin is the founding Rabbi of Chavurah Beth Shalom which meets in Alpine New Jersey and at The Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ. Nat has held this position since January 15, 1991, and has increased membership from 50 families to several hundred today.
Nat’s musical talents were recognized early by his mother Rose Friedman Benjamin who taught piano and musical theory in the Inwood section of upper Manhattan. Upon discovering that her six year old possessed perfect pitch and was able to play melodies on the piano after hearing them only once, she enrolled him in the preparatory division of the Juilliard School Of Music where he was granted a full scholarship to study violin, piano, and musical theory. At the age of seven He was playing in their young people’s orchestra and chamber ensembles.
Nat brought his musical talents to Riverdale Temple where his family had been among the congregation’s original founders members. With the encouragement of Rabbi Charles E; Shulman and Rabbi Shelley Waldenberg, a Junior congregation was formed. Nat’s interests now included singing in their youth choir which he began to conduct while attending the Horace Mann School nearby. The Riverdale Temple youth Choir performed extensively throughout the metropolitan New York Area at hospitals, nursing homes, schools and joint choral events involving other synagogues and schools. In 1960 when the issue of the plight of Soviet Jewry received considerable attention, The Riverdale Temple singers and their 15 year old choir director were invited to perform at the UN building and received many compliments for their musical performance and fine spirit. Many of his choristers and students went on to become active in The National Federation Of Temple Youth.
During his college years Nat continued to be involved with Jewish Music and religious services. He also began to establish a reputation as an outstanding religious school teacher and Baal Koreh . Nat began preparing for a career as a Cantor and was fortunate to study With Cantor David Kusevitsky, and Zvi Aroni. His studies included Nusach and cantillation with Cantor Moshe Nathanson, Yiddish Art songs with Sidor Belarsky and Lazar Weiner. He received his formal Vocal training with the renowned opera singer John Kuhn, professor of voice at New York University.
Following his investiture as Cantor in 1977 from Herzeliah Jewish Teacher's Seminary and his rabbinical ordination several years later from The New Seminary, Rabbinical Seminary International, Rabbi Benjamin served congregations in New York and New Jersey.
Prior to the establishment of our Chavurah, he served as Cantor of Temple Sinai in Tenafly from 1978-1991. He has also served at Riverdale Temple in New York City and Temple Beth Shalom in Clifton, New Jersey.
Rabbi Benjamin is a past President of The Jewish Ministers Cantors Association, Since 1980, he has been a member of the Board of Governors of the American Society for Jewish Music. He is also a member of the Rabbinical Fellowship of America.
Rabbi/Cantor Benjamin is best known in our community as the founder of the annual Cantors Concert at The Jewish Community Center on the Palisades. In addition to his duties as a spiritual leader of the Chavurah, Nat is an officer with the American Society for Jewish Music where he sponsors their annual Chanukah concert and their Contemporary Composer’s concert which take place at the Jewish American Historical Society in New York City. During a career of over thirty years Rabbi Benjamin has officiated at Thousands of weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah services, namings, and of course funerals, unveilings and other life cycle events both here, throughout the USA and abroad. He is also sensitive to the needs of interfaith families and situations which need to be addressed.
Nat and Jill Benjamin have lived in Tenafly since 1980 They have two children, Renee who lives in Bergen County, Jason who lives in North Carolina, and an 8 year old granddaughter Amanda.