Thursday, February 22, 2024

Former WCG Member Becomes First Black Woman Appointed As A Cantor


Jenni Asher expects to graduate from the
Academy for Jewish Religion California next spring. (Photo/Arjun Ramesh)

"As a student at London’s Royal Academy of Music in the late 2000s, Jenni Asher lived across the street from the city’s Central Synagogue. She was not Jewish at the time, but she was feeling angst over the direction that her spiritual home, the Worldwide Church of God, was headed. So after church services, which were held on Saturdays, she sat in on Shabbat services at the grand Orthodox shul.

“It was really quite the introduction to Judaism, looking back at it,” she told J. in an interview this month. “I started learning Hebrew there.” 
Today, the accomplished violinist is a cantorial soloist and a student at the non-denominational Academy for Jewish Religion California (AJRCA) in Los Angeles. When she graduates next year, she will become the first Black American woman ordained as a cantor — and one of only two Black cantors in the country, according to the other one, Cantor David Fair."

"Asher grew up in Pasadena in a religiously devout and music-loving family. Her mother took her to the symphony at age 4 and asked her which instrument she wanted to play. She chose the violin. Her father, a singer, played all kinds of music in their home. 
“My dad instilled a love of jazz in me and exposed me to a whole bunch of music I wouldn’t have otherwise heard,” she said."

"As members of the Worldwide Church of God, which was later renamed Grace Communion International, Asher and her family observed the Sabbath on Saturday, avoided pork and shellfish and celebrated versions of Jewish holidays. 
“I was brought up to think that I understood the Torah,” she said. “We appreciated the Jews because they could speak Hebrew and read the Bible in the original language.” 
She eventually came to realize how much she didn’t know and decided to convert through American Jewish University. She converted again in the Sephardic Orthodox tradition in order to be able to fully participate at the synagogues favored by her husband, who has Egyptian Jewish and Mexican heritage."

Read the entre article here: L.A. musician Jenni Asher studying to be first ordained Black woman cantor



Anonymous said...

Just wow! I can certainly see and appreciate this. Nearly 50 years after leaving the WCG, I still feel like a Jew.

Anonymous said...

"She converted again in the Sephardic Orthodox tradition in order to be able to fully participate at the synagogues favored by her husband, who has Egyptian Jewish and Mexican heritage.""

Can't think of a better reason to convert. /s

RSK said...

I think theyre forgetting Goldye di Shvartse Khaznte. Still, though, thats a huge accomplishment!

Richard Burkard said...

Truly the pieces of WCG scattered in many directions 30 years ago when the "blow-up" happened.

Trooisto said...

This woman is amazingly talented and accomplished!

Obviously, she is free to do whatever she wants to and obviously, I don't know what's in her mind or heart.

So, my take on this story is that she did not meet Jesus through Armstrongism and she exposed Armstrongism for not really keeping the law they claim to love. Therefore, she found a path to honor God in a way that is more meaningful to her than Armstrongism was.

Anonymous said...

Some people find a better or suitable path after the implosion. Some people don't want to go through splinterdom.

Cory Haffly said...

I'm tempted to ask how many more years you'll need to get over that feeling, but I guess I won't.

Cory Haffly said...

Makes me wonder what they were doing there in the first place.

Cory Haffly said...

I'm guessing she had an encounter of sorts with Jesus but then decided that the Jews were right all along.

Cory Haffly said...

This is what was meant by "many are called but few are chosen". The vast majority of former WCG people weren't chosen, and many of them weren't actually called. They only thought they were.

Anonymous said...

In the main, the Jews still deny that Christ was the Messiah. They claim that Christ can only be seen in the OT if one puts on the "Jesus glasses." Details aren't given about this woman's religious beliefs, but I hope that she's trying to please God to the best of her understanding.

Anonymous said...

Cory, once when we got there, many of us discovered what was really going on, and realized there had been no calling. It was all an illusion, completely bogus. Not even a baby in the bath water. When that happens to seekers of truth, they simply continue their search. We may not agree with where they look, but at least they have not succumbed.

Anonymous said...

I have not worn the shoes Jenni Asher has or walked the road she has travelled. But we need to be careful not to judge her steps or the direction she has taken. I have often pondered our calling to faith. I believe now that God chooses the time and place and uses the circumstances we are in to bring us to faith and places us in the body, the church where and when He pleases. Be that here or there in this organisation or the other, to give us time to grow develop and mature. One only has to look at the appalling splintering of the Armstrong movement to see that it cannot hold up a light to the world as a beacon of virtue to all. Far from it.
God knows who are His. If we decide because one has made a move away from the ‘church’ as we know it, are we therefore making a decision that this one is not ‘chosen’? If so we are on unstable ground indeed. Then we are, not God, the decider of salvation, us as mere mortals. Did not He say to Elijah that He has preserved many when Elijah thought he alone was left of the servants of God.
That one attends a synagogue is not necessarily an abandonment of faith in God or of His salvation in Jesus Christ.
Surely as we look back on the abuses of Armstrongism we should appreciate that at least.

Anonymous said...

Cory, or an alternative explanation is that HWA ministers failed in their duty of care to properly advise or vette potential members before baptism. By contrast John the Baptist told the Pharisees to bare fruits worthy of repentance before water baptism. One member kept telling me that he had no idea that trying to live by Christian standards was going to be so difficult. He fainted and morally collapsed after 8 years of attendance.
The complaint has been made before that the ministers baptized members mainly for the sake of numbers and income. Members were thrown under the bus to this end.

Anonymous said...

At this point in life, I do not associate a calling as most define it with HWA/WCG/AC.
God may have allowed us to accumulate experience theough exposure to Armstrongism. Certainly, all of us have learned some lessons by that experience, but not quite as HWA envisioned, taught, and impressed upon us.

The experience left me expecting something much deeper, and the continued search for that, along with getting to know and understand myself and to develop talents has driven much of my life. Surely the totality of it all cannot be that Jesus Christ will soon return to establish Armstrongism as God's government on Earth, initiating the Millennium, and we receive our cities to rule with a rod of iron.

Seekers realize that any time one finds one answer, it always raises more questions. Our search lasts our entire life if our minds are working properly. It's actually a cause for concern if at any point in our lives we begin to think we know all the answers.

Phinnpoy said...

It never ceases to amaze me where some of our former brothers and sisters have landed up!