Sharlin, William

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SHARLIN, WILLIAM (1920– ), U.S. cantor. Born in Brooklyn, he attended the Yeshiva of Harlem and then a yeshivah in the Bronx before attending the Talmudical Academy of Yeshiva University and the Bet Midrash le-Morim at Yeshiva. His parents moved to Jerusalem, Palestine in 1935, where he studied at the Jerusalem Conservatory of Music and the Bet Midrah le-Morim run by Mizrachi. His returned with his parents to New York in 1939 and attended high school at night and then Manhattan School of Music, receiving both his B.A. and M.A. in 1949. His studies were interrupted by war service and he was in the U.S. army between 1942 and 1945. Thus, he was both a learned Jew and a classically trained musician, at home in the synagogue and at home in all facets of music, classic and contemporary.

In 1949 Sharlin entered the School of Sacred Music at hjuc-jir and then entered its cantorial program while pursuing graduate work at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1954, combining a part-time position at the newly formed Leo Baeck Temple and teaching at the Hebrew Union College's Los Angeles Campus. He remained at Leo Baeck until his retirement in 1988, introducing many of his compositions in different services and for special education. He had a firm grasp of the seriousness of liturgical movement and was a cantor at a time when many Reform congregations had soloists and choirs. He brought to the synagogue, in the words of its Rabbi Leonard Beerman, a sense of musical vitality and the musically possible. Although a formally trained musician, he was one of the first to introduce the guitar to synagogue service, bringing the liveliness and informality of the camp experience back into the synagogue.

At Hebrew Union College, he was chairman of the Department of Sacred Music. Among the programs he established was a program for cantorial certification and one for synagogue organists. He also continued a long tradition of working with individuals and training them in a mentoring program as cantors. He continued that well into the age of retirement. He was a composer and arranger as well as a cantor. Among his more important works was the service that he composed for the inauguration of Alfred Gottschalk, his former colleague in Los Angeles, as president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1971. His collected works have been published.


J.E. Cohen, "The Life and Music of Cantor William Sharlin" (M.A. thesis, huc-jir, 1990); K.M. Olitzsky, L.J. Sussman, and M.H. Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1993).

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]