For Cantor Jack Chomsky, giving to the community means continually reaching farther to make life better for others. That means engaging the interfaith community and creating opportunities for women and the LGBTQ community, both via his role at Congregation Tifereth Israel and in his volunteer advocacy. Chomsky said Judaism teaches him we are partners in helping God make the world a better place and simply doing is necessary. That also means future generations must be engaged and interested in such matters, and setting a good example for them is essential.
What inspires you to give back to the community?
I wouldn’t call it “giving back” – just giving. Each of us has an opportunity to figure out what we can contribute to making life better, immediately within reach or farther out. Any time you can do that, you will receive a beneficial feeling. Joy should be at the heart of everything we do – even the hard things.
Was there ever a turning point or shift that made you change how you approach community service or become active in the Jewish world?
As a child, I remember a couple of boys who I felt were being mistreated. I didn’t even know their names and don’t remember their names. But I do remember feeling it was wrong and I wanted to do something about it. I wasn’t treated nicely by some others (I was a puny kid) ... so that helped me appreciate what it feels like.
Is there any particular cause, issue or organization you are especially passionate about? What have you done to address it?
In my role as a cantor, I fought (or at least worked hard) to bring women into my profession – and succeeded. And was succeeded by a woman as president of the Cantors Assembly.
I am also a fervent believer in the two-state solution in Israel and continue to fight for it on every possible front through organizations and individual work.
How did your Jewish background inform your interest in giving back?
Again, I wouldn’t say “giving back.” My Jewish life tells me we are partners with God in making the world better. Praying is lovely. But doing is ultimately more powerful. Prayer helps us to have the necessary focus to do the work that needs to be done – either with God’s help or as God’s helpers.
Did you have any mentors? If so, what was your relationship to them and how did they impact you?
As a cantor, my mentor was Ivan Perlman, cantor of Temple Emanu-El in Providence, R.I. He was a great singer, great personality and a force of nature – an ex-Marine who was at Iwo Jima. My long partnership with Rabbi Harold Berman at Tifereth Israel taught me a great deal. And paying attention to what my wife says and thinks has really paid dividends in every part of my life.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the Central Ohio Jewish community? What should be done to promote change?
Continuity – maintaining interest for the next generation. What should be done? We need to pursue what is important and what is right, not to focus just on marketing. If we are committed to meaning, people will find their way to us.