Religion News: Meet Beth Israel Synagogue's new cantor

BenZion Bronshtein, right, is the new cantor of Beth Israel Synagogue in Beaufort. Bronshtein, shown here with his wife, Penny, plays classical guitar, as well as many other instruments.
BenZion Bronshtein, right, is the new cantor of Beth Israel Synagogue in Beaufort. Bronshtein, shown here with his wife, Penny, plays classical guitar, as well as many other instruments. BOB SOFALY/The Beaufort Gazette

BenZion Bronshtein, the new religious leader of Beaufort's Beth Israel Synagogue, sees it as a tower of light for the Jewish people between Savannah and Charleston.

A former elementary school music teacher, Bronshtein said it's his duty as cantor to make a connection to God through music. Bronshtein's favorite instrument is his classical guitar, but he also plays the accordion, piano, violin, mandolin, banjo and charango. He said his role is different from that of a rabbi.

"It is a rabbi's job to speak," Bronshtein said. "Music is the main mode of communication of a cantor -- not to sing by himself -- but how successful the cantor causes others to sing with him."

Building relationships between the people in the synagogue and the community is one of his goals. Bronshtein and his wife, Penny, live in Charleston where they teach Hebrew and Judaism to members of a Christian church.

Born in Israel, Bronshtein served as a paratrooper during the Yom Kippur War, fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab states in 1973. In college, he studied guitar, voice and liturgy, composition and choir directing.

Bronshtein, his wife and three children moved to Atlanta in 1989 where he taught music at Greenfield Hebrew Academy and served as a cantor in different synagogues. In 2006 the family moved to Charleston, where he now serves as ritual director of Emanu-El synagogue.

In September, Bronshtein was invited to conduct High Holy Days services for Beth Israel. The congregation was being led by interim religious leader Sy Commanday and was looking for someone to take over. Its previous cantor, Sheldon Feinberg, recently passed away. Bronshtein was chosen as the new cantor.

Bronshtein hopes to continue to teach music and Hebrew in the Beaufort community.

"I would like to connect to elementary schools and classical guitar students, adults and children in Charleston and Beaufort," Bronshtein said. "The classical guitar is such a lovely sound, and it causes people to sing."


Port Royal United Methodist Church will offer an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner from 4:30-6:30 p.m. today at the church, 16th Street and Columbia Avenue, Port Royal. Tickets are $7 for adults and $3.50 for children.

Details: 843-986-2953


Beaufort Aglow will meet at 11 a.m. today in the second floor conference room of Port Royal Medical Center, 1320 South Ribaut Road, Port Royal. The South Carolina Coastal Leadership Team will present "Refreshing Leaders." The new Area Leadership Team, with President Von Raiford, will present training on positions in the Aglow Lighthouse teams.

Details: 843-525-0525,


First African Baptist Church Youth Services begin at 10 a.m. Sunday. Ayoka Campbell of Charlotte will speak. She practices labor and employment law at Capital Metro Law Office of the United States Postal Service. She is a native of Hilton Head Island with Gullah heritage.

The Family and Friends Day Celebration will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday with the program, "Looking Back on Our Gullah Heritage." Emory Campbell, Gullah writer and consultant, will speak. Entertainment will be provided by the Voices of El Shaddai and Lavon Stevens of St. John Baptist Church. The celebration continues at 10 a.m. Feb. 13 with Words of Celebration from the Rev. Alvin Petty. The church is at 70 Beach City Road, Hilton Head Island.

Details: 843-681-6427


The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort will hold its first full service at a new location at 10 a.m. Sunday at 178 Sams Point Road, Lady's Island. The fellowship purchased the Sea Island Conference Center on Sams Point Road on Aug. 31. Since inception of the UUFB in 1999, the fellowship has met in a variety of locations including members' homes, the Beth Israel Synagogue, the Shed in Port Royal, Beaufort Naval Hospital Officer Club, Penn Center, Sea Island Conference Center, and most recently the Wardle Family YMCA in Port Royal.

Details: 843-838-1399


Based on the book of Revelation, Beth Moore will deliver a DVD-based lecture series for women and men on this prophetic book of the Bible from 6-7:45 p.m. on Tuesdays through April 12 at Resurrection Christian Church. The church is at 296 Spanish Wells Road, Hilton Head Island.

Details: 843-689-3625,


"The Journey of the Jews: A Cultural Study" will be launched at the Bluffton library from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday. Rabbi Brad Bloom of Congregation Beth Yam will lead the 12-week discussion series. The sessions are open to the public. The series is a continuation of the ongoing Lunch and Learn program at Congregation Beth Yam. Participants are invited to bring lunch.

The programs will continue through May with one session each month to be held at the Bluffton library. Two sessions each month will take place at Congregation Beth Yam on Meeting Street on Hilton Head. After the first program in Bluffton, the remaining sessions for February will be Feb. 16 and Feb. 23 at Congregation Beth Yam.

A Scholar-In-Residence program will be held from Feb. 19-20. Dr. Robert Platzner will speak at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 on "Steven Spielberg's Jewish Films: A Critical View of 'Schindler's List' and 'Munich.'<2009>" Platzner will speak at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 20 on "How Does the Hebrew Bible View Women?" Platzner recently retired as chairman of the Department of Humanities and Religious Studies at Cal State in Sacramento. Reservations are required. Cost is $10 for non-congregation members and may be paid at the door. The synagogue is at 4501 Meeting St., Hilton Head Island.

Details: 843-689-2178


Bishop Wallace Wright, pastor of Gillisonville Mission New Church of Christ, will speak from noon-12:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Lunch Hour of Power in Helen Galloway's Memorial Chapel of Chisholm Galloway Home for Funerals, 808 Bladen St., Beaufort.

Details: 843-524-6634


Singer and songwriter Stephen Hill of the Bill and Gloria Gaither Homecoming Friends will sing at 11 a.m. Feb. 1Grays Hill Baptist Church. A Greenville native, Hill teaches each summer at the Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Nashville, Tenn. He received a Dove Award nomination for his song, "Why Can't God's People Get Along?" A freewill offering will be taken. The church is at 2749 Trask Parkway, Grays Hill.

Details: 843-846-2797


A fellowship concert featuring the Kirk Choir of Sea Island Presbyterian Church and the Voices of Victory will be at 4 p.m. Feb. 13 at Bethesda Christian Fellowship. The church is at 32 Martin Luther King Drive, St. Helena Island.

Details: 843-838-4410


Brother Jack Green will deliver his initial sermon at 4 p.m. Feb. 13 at St. James Baptist Church. The church is at 209 Dillon Road, Hilton Head Island. The Rev. Charles Hamilton Sr. is pastor. The public is invited.

Details: 843-681-6446


The Shepherd's House Ministries will present Fellowship Explosion 2011 at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16-18. Speakers are: Wednesday, Pastor D.L. Russell Jr. of New Life Deliverance Church, St. Helena Island; Thursday, Apostle Jerome Middleton of Church of the Harvest Apostolic, St. Helena Island; and Friday, Pastor Lawrence Washington of Omega Worship Center of Beaufort. The church is at 15 Sheldon Baptist Church Drive, Sheldon.

Details: 843-252-5530


An American Red Cross Blood Drive sponsored by Health Ministries at the First Presbyterian Church will be held from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Feb. 18. To make an appointment, call 843-681-3696. The church is at 540 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head.

Details: 843-681-3696,,


The music ministry of Canaan Missionary Baptist Church will sponsor a retreat to Orlando, Fla. March 31-April 2. The adults will visit the Holy Land Experience and the youth will visit Universal Studios and a variety of other activities. Final day to register is March 1. For an itinerary, contact Evelyn Carter, 843-846-4115 or Beverly Ferguson, 843-263-8599. The church is at 908 Trask Parkway, Sheldon.

Details: 843-846-4175