It is with profound heartbreak and immeasurable pain that we reach out to you with tragic news. Cantor Ilan Mamber suddenly passed away at the age of 70 on Tuesday, July 31st at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ. He was born in B’nei Brak, a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel, to Arthur and Channa Mamber. As a child, he was a member and soloist in various choirs in the "great Synagogues" of Tel Aviv and its surrounding towns.
Upon his arrival in the United States, Ilan bought a guitar and taught himself to play. In 1979, he received his Master's Degree from Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work and worked in the field of Jewish communal service as a Jewish Center worker from 1977 to 1987. Concurrent to pursuing a career in the Jewish Cantorial field, Ilan became a successful Israeli-American folk singer performing throughout North America. He appeared on Jewish radio and cable television programs and performed at major Jewish art festivals, theaters, university campuses and community centers.
Cantor Mamber served as the cantor at Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff, NJ for 31 years, beginning in 1987. During that time, his unique interpretations of prayer and liturgy enriched the lives of every single adult and child congregant. He was the “singing cantor” whose signature guitar was always draped across his chest or poised close by for easy access during Shabbat services, High Holidays services or during the countless hours he spent with the Preschool and Religious School students.
According to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “Words are the language of the mind. Music is the language of the soul.” Cantor Ilan Mamber was the soul of Temple Beth Rishon. His musical contributions enhanced the meditative spirit of our prayers. Ilan initiated and produced a multitude of musical shabbats for the congregation, promoting connections within our temple community. He organized Café Beth Rishon, an annual evening of song and dance featuring a talented group of temple members. Ilan developed and conducted both temple choirs: Kol Rishon, the adult choir and Zemer Rishon, the youth choir. Additionally, he encouraged the congregation to participate in Jewish performances outside of the temple, many which he personally organized, such as the Cantor’s Choir or the Yiddish theater.
Ilan was an amazing teacher, instructing classes throughout the temple. He offered guidance in his inimitable style to each Bar or Bat Mitzvah student, adult or youngster. In addition to instructing the 12 and 13-year-olds, Ilan organized and taught seventeen groups of Adult B’nei Mitzvah classes during his tenure as cantor. Both the teacher and the graduates were extremely proud of their accomplishment. He was a constant presence in the temple schools, collaborating with the Preschool and Religious School teachers to present a musical program to the students. The children would eagerly flock around Ilan as he strummed his guitar, teaching them prayers and songs in Hebrew.
Cantor Mamber was a compassionate man who personally connected with congregants during times of illness, difficulty or grief. He was generous with his time, with seemingly endless energy. During his time at Temple Beth Rishon, he encouraged the congregation to develop connections with local Jewish Agencies. He planned annual trips for the choirs to perform at nursing homes like Daughters of Miriam, Promenade Senior Living and Cedar Crest or at Café Europa, a social gathering for Holocaust survivors. Other times, his Rishon Trio would bring smiles to the residents’ faces with their renditions of holiday songs. He organized opportunities for his congregation to participate in celebrations of Israeli holidays and commemorations. Ilan’s compassion was demonstrated in all these endeavors.
Ilan Mamber was a force of nature. He was a beloved mentor to innumerable members, Cantorial interns and budding musicians. He was a social activist who poured his energy into the causes close to his heart. Ilan was almost as passionate about riding his motorcycle as he was about his music. His sharp intellect, boundless generosity and passion for life will be sorely missed.
Ilan was a devoted family man. He cherished his wife Carol, who was his best friend and confident. He not only adored his children, Noah and Aliza, but was extremely proud of their accomplishments. He was a dedicated son who cared for his parents during their golden years. Ilan’s greatest joy was when his father, son and daughter joined him to sing on the bimah.