ACC SPOTLIGHT ON RETIRED CANTORS
Panelists: Cantors Sam Radwine, Neil Newman and Florence Friedman
What sort of retirement planning did you do regarding how you would spend your time? Do you find that your plans are working out?
Sam Radwine: My plans were to relocate to Palm Springs, California, and to reinvent myself as a realtor. To my great surprise, I discovered that I didn't really enjoy doing that. After about 1-2 years, I realized that what I really enjoyed was that which I had done for so many years: just doing less of it. My situation is about to dramatically change (all for the good.) Our beloved mentor and teacher, Cantor William Sharlin, z'l, used to say, "trust the process." I am and shall do; please stay tuned for further developments!
Neil Newman: My wife and I tried to vacation in a number of potential retirement communities for a short time to get a sense of what it would be like to live there. In addition, I designed four interesting sabbatical experiences over my working years when I wrote to congregations that didn’t have a cantor and asked if I could serve their community. So I served as a cantor for a month in each of these places: Honolulu, Hawaii; Asheville, North Carolina; Rutland, Vermont; and Boise, Idaho. These turned out to be wonderful interactions with different Jewish communities and a taste of partial retirement even though I was in fact still working. Our vacations also brought us to a variety of cities. But when we got to Sarasota, we absolutely fell in love with it both because of its beauty as well as the amazing performing arts the city has to offer. We’ve been living here full time since 2009.
Florence Friedman: I made a wish list of “extra-curricular” activities and their approximate costs. These mind-body-soul activities included taking music lessons, attending yearly meditation retreats, and working with a trainer at the gym. I also discussed this with my spouse. I then met with my financial advisor to see if these activities fit within my budget. I also carved out time to spend time with my husband, grandchildren, and friends. I wanted to explore some additional volunteer work in addition to teaching meditation.
I moved to a new area so it took me some time to navigate a new location. I had to try things out and see what would work for me. I have now been retired for over four years and my plans are working out and open to change. For example, I am now in a 2nd unit of a formal (CPE) chaplaincy program, which ends in May. I love the work and classes, but it is a huge time commitment and emotionally demanding. I’m not sure if I will continue to pursue another unit. Regardless, I will continue to volunteer at a hospital.
How do you like being retired? What do you miss? What have you found to be different than you expected?
Sam Radwine: I'm happy to be retired, but miss the day-to-day relationships that I formed with over 27 years in the same congregation and community. I especially miss working with the kids. I now work part-time in a mostly senior environment. They are lovely and appreciative folks, but it requires a different energy and sensitivity. The community where I live is primarily a resort community where I used to visit for weekends. Living here full time is VERY different, especially given the particular nature of the Jewish Community.
Neil Newman: I worked very hard for many years and loved my cantorial profession, especially at my last congregation in Minneapolis, where I spent thirty-seven years, because I had a wonderful relationship with all of the people I worked with and served. I truly found my home in Minneapolis. I enjoyed the work that I was doing and I have always loved the hazzanut, and found it especially fulfilling. For some reason, I did not have concerns about retirement, and I've found it very easy to fill the vacuum of time. I picked up the game of bridge, which I enjoy immensely. I play tennis three or four times a week, which I never had time for while working. And I am especially appreciating the time I have now with my wife and my family; and we're very active in our synagogue. Being retired has allowed us to form different kinds of friendships than we had when I was "the cantor."
Florence Friedman: I love being retired and it is a work in progress. I initially missed the people in my congregation. I sometimes miss leading worship, creating music, and singing on a regular basis and yet the “free time” I have now is now more rewarding and I continually try to find activities and people that feed my soul.
Also, I want to share something about expectations that came as a surprise to me. When you serve a congregation for a long time - and I served mine for 13 years - you think your relationship with them will remain the same, but it doesn’t. It’s different. This is not necessarily bad but it’s something that I hadn’t expected.
What advice do you have for those of us who are planning to retire?
Sam Radwine: I would share the advice that was given to me by a rabbinic friend: for the first year or so, you'll feel quite disoriented, sort of like "losing your mind!" Then, all of a sudden, you'll find your "groove." He was right!
Neil Newman: Of course, making sure you've prepared financially in an adequate manner to continue living at the level with which you are comfortable is extremely important. But just as crucial is thinking about how you will actually spend your time. For each person, it's a different story. Saranee and I have five children who live all over the States. We intentionally choose not to live in any one location where our kids are situated. Other people feel obliged to do that, which is certainly a personal choice. I think it is important to be open-minded and to explore other possibilities because there is a great big world out there. I guess my strongest advice would be to prepare oneself psychologically in advance of retirement so you can approach it with a positive attitude. Think of it as a new and exciting chapter in your life rather than just giving up everything you dedicated yourself to while working.
Know what your finances are.
- Make a wish list of things you want to do and then start to plan how you will actualize this plan.
- Be patient and compassionate with yourself in letting go of your 24-7 job and identity as a cantor.
- Be open to change.
- Be open to learning something new every day.
- Explore what gives meaning to your life.
- Be grateful for each moment….
- Read the following books: “Every Ending a New Beginning for Clergy, Their Family, and the Congregation (Death, Value and Meaning) by Rabbi Daniel A. Roberts and Michael P. Freidman, EdD AND “Wise Aging” by Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal.
Samuel B. Radwine is Cantor Emeritus of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
Neil Newman is Cantor Emeritus of Beth El synagogue in St. Louis Park, MN.
Florence Friedman is Cantor Emeritus of Temple Sinai in Summit, NJ.