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The congregations of Temple B’nai Israel in Kalamazoo and Temple Beth El in Battle Creek mourn the passing of our religious leader, Cantor Larry I. Charson, late Sunday, January 6, 2013, at the age of 63.

Cantor Larry brought a wealth of talent and knowledge to our community as the leader for both southwest Michigan Reform Jewish congregations. With more than 30 years of experience in leading worship services, tutoring B’nai Mitzvah students, pastoral and hospice care, Cantor Larry was a great addition to our Jewish community and our community at large.

Cantor Larry grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, where two of his lifelong loves were planted: his love of Judaism, and his love of blue crabs.

Cantor Larry held a BFA in voice from Boston University. He did graduate studies in Special Education and Music Therapy. He graduated with honors and awards from Hebrew Union College’s School of Sacred Music in 1979. He was certified as a teacher of Hebrew and Jewish Music.

Cantor Larry attended the New England Conservatory of Music Graduate School Opera Theatre in Boston and has performed concerts at temples, Hadassah functions and community events. He was a guest speaker at Rice University Graduate School of Music.

In 2010, Cantor Larry was interviewed by the Kalamazoo Gazette about whether animals go to heaven. He said: “I think they do. I think heaven is as full an experience as can possibly be, and that would include animals, pets. I don’t think we’d have animals working the fields anymore, but I think people get united with their beloved pets. There isn’t anything on the subject in the Torah by design. The Torah does not talk about the afterlife because the emphasis of the Torah is on how to live this life. We’re supposed to have faith in God as to what happens afterwards. It just makes sense to me (that animals would be part of heaven). I’m not saying this as an authority. It’s just a personal feeling. ... (As to the Jewish idea of heaven,) when the Jewish Messiah comes, heaven and earth will come together and there will be no difference between them.”

In October 2010, Cantor Larry lent his voice to an American Red Cross benefit concert for flood victims in Pakistan, sponsored by the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music. He often represented the Jewish community at public events, chanting prayers in Hebrew at services of the Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action in the Community (ISAAC), of which Temple B’nai Israel is a charter member.

Prior to his arrival in Kalamazoo in 2006, Cantor Larry served Congregation Bet Breira, in Miami, Florida.

Cantor Larry’s column in the May 2012 TBI newsletter included this passage:

“It’s usually the beginnings and endings of things that capture our attention: grand openings and liquidations, hirings and firings, debuts and denouements, births

and deaths. These are the moments that are splashy, that grab us. But when we think about it, the high points in our lives and the low ones, too, last only a moment, and we live most of our days in the ‘middles.’ Wedding ceremonies give way to commutes and mortgages, baby namings to diaper changes and carpools, B'nai Mitzvah celebrations to homework and endless requests to turn down the music.

“Our goals may seem to be found in life’s most dramatic moments: finished projects, award ceremonies, graduations, raises in salaries. But the people who sense the greatest wholeness in their lives are those who find fulfillment in the events that take place when the spotlights are turned elsewhere. And where is that? The middles. The everyday things like just being around the ones you love or being with your friends.

“… Life is too short and too uncertain to only celebrate the high points of our lives. May we learn to rejoice in the everyday things, like the pupicks, the middles.”

May our memories of our religious leader, both the splashy moments and the everyday things, be for a blessing.


Rabbi Steve Forstein


rabbi steve

It is with great sadness in our hearts that we mourn the loss of Rabbi Steve Forstein, our Rabbi from 1998 to 2006.  Rabbi Steve, 76, passed away on December 19 2012. Funeral services were held on December 21 at Temple Beth Sholom, Topeka Kansas.

A heartfelt obituary was posted in the Battle Creek Enquirer, and memories are being share in a guest book here.   Many in our Kalamazoo and Battle Creek communities are still reeling from the loss of a man who changed many of our lives.

Shabbat Services


Please join us for Shabbat services led by Rabbi Matthew Zerwekh. On the first, third, and fourth Fridays of each month, Shabbat services begin at 7:00 p.m. On the second Friday  of each month, Shabbat services begin at 6:00 p.m. and are followed by a community potluck meal open to all (October through May) or a shared meal at a local restaurant (June through September).  In months with a fifth Friday, we forego services at TBI and instead gather in members’ homes for a shared Shabbat dinner.

Every Saturday morning, our  our weekly morning Shabbat serviceMinyan Milamed, begins at 10:00 a.m. Check our calendar page for updates. Our Shabbat services are always open to visitors; we invite you to come and experience Temple B'nai Israel!