Church Lady: Hari Jacobsen uses her Julliard training to inspire, comfort and celebrate

Jewish Congregation of Marco Island's Cantorial Soloist Hari Jacobsen studies the music for the next Shabbat service.  
/Kathleen Tuttle Special to the Eagle

Jewish Congregation of Marco Island's Cantorial Soloist Hari Jacobsen studies the music for the next Shabbat service. /Kathleen Tuttle Special to the Eagle

The Jewish Congregation of Marco Island's Cantorial Soloist Hari Jacobsen explains the meaning of the words above the Ark.
/Kathleen Tuttle Special to the Eagle

The Jewish Congregation of Marco Island's Cantorial Soloist Hari Jacobsen explains the meaning of the words above the Ark. /Kathleen Tuttle Special to the Eagle

“Know before whom you are standing,” are the words that inspirit the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island’s (JCMI) Cantorial Soloist Hari Jacobsen. “The words get me where I need to be during the service,” said Jacobsen. “When I am standing on the bimah facing the Ark, my eyes almost inescapably go to those letters; I virtually have to take in those powerful words. God has my attention.”

Jacobson has served at JCMI for 15 years. She has served with one lay leader and three rabbis and conducts the Shabbat services when the rabbi is out of town.

She currently co-officiates the service with Rabbi Edward Maline, DD. She leads the music and is involved any time there is music. She chooses music to complement and enhance the tone of the rabbi’s sermon. The tone can be joyful, pensive or didactic. “We give them a powerful moment in time,” said Jacobsen.

She also conducts funerals and weddings, visits the sick, counsels, participates in the Marco Island Clergy Association and prepares students for their Bat or Bar Mitzvah at Temple Shalom, Naples.

Jacobsen has a BM and MM from Julliard in performance with an emphasis on opera and classical art song.

She recently returned from the Convention of the Joint Conference of the American Conference of Cantors, the organization for Reform, invested cantors and the Guild of Temple Musicians, the organization for others who are involved with Jewish music, including cantorial soloists. She has attended the convention seventeen times in the past 18 years. This year it was held the last week of June in Boston.

“Sometimes it’s more educational and sometimes it’s more inspirational,” she said. “This year it was more inspirational.” Ethno-musicologist Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, PhD, executive director of the Hillel Foundation, associate chaplain and associate professor in the department of music at Tufts University gave a talk on the reality of selecting music for the congregation. “His presentation was both brilliant and entertaining,” said Jacobsen.

Joshua Jacobson, PhD, professor of music and director of choral activities at Northeastern University and guest conductor at the Boston Pops Orchestra gave several presentations. “He is a renowned scholar of Jewish music, especially Jewish choral music and has published probably the most comprehensive book on biblical chant,” said Jacobsen. “His choral music and interpretation is extraordinary.” She attended a concert he conducted at a synagogue.

But what really blew Jacobsen away was the presentation by Anita Diamant the author of the “Red Tent” who spoke about, and led a field trip to, the Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikveh in Newton, Massachusetts, which she helped found. Mayyim Hayyim means “Waters of Life.” A mikveh is a traditional ritual bath involving full body immersion. “It’s a tangible symbol of emotional and spiritual cleansing,” said Jacobsen. Diamant saw the need for a mikveh that was more welcoming to reform and liberal Conservative Jews. She found people to support it financially. Mayyim Hayyim was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2001 and they opened their doors in 2004.

“I’m a mikveh convert,” said Jacobsen. “Where else do we have such a focusing, intensifying aid?” Traditionally mikvehs are for women before her wedding, after menstruation or childbirth. They are also for anyone wanting to convert to Judaism. However, they can also serve as a celebration for milestone events such as a graduation, an important birthday or anniversary. Immersion in the mikveh can also mark the end of a journey and signify a new start or the beginning of healing in the aftermath of pain and trauma such as death, miscarriage, illness or cancer.

A person must be completely clean before entering the mikveh. A private room is provided to undress, shower, shampoo and to brush one’s teeth. All jewelry, make-up, nail polish, lenses, etc, anything that would come between the person and the water must be removed. The mikveh was built and is maintained under rabbinic supervision. The immersion pool is filled with heated and treated tap water. The introduction of a small amount of living water, water that is not touched by human hands, from the outside rainwater collection pool makes the indoor pool a kosher mikveh.

Upon entering the water the person ducks under the water for a moment or two and recites a short blessing. Mayyim Hayyim provides optional blessings on laminated cards. The person then immerses one or two more times and recites more blessings. When the immersion is for a conversion to Judaism it is optional for the family to wait outside and when they hear the third immersion they break out into joyous song.

In addition to being reenergized at the conference Jacobsen was also one of two cantorial soloists chosen to sing a solo at the convention. She chose “Therefore Choose Life” and sang it in Hebrew and English. Here is the full version English text: “I have called heaven and earth to welcome this day. Therefore choose life that you and your children may live by loving the eternal God and heeding God’s commandments and holding fast to God.”

To which the Church Lady adds an Amen.

Kathleen Tuttle, a Marco Island resident since 1987, has written articles for various nonprofits for more than 25 years. She is a community volunteer, former science teacher and microbiologist.

Marco Presbyterian Church

Women’s Summer Bible Study, “Discovering the God of Second Chances” 9 a.m., Fridays. The study based on the book “Discovering the God of Second Chances” by Kay Arthur and Pete De Lacy will focus on four Minor Prophets – Jonah, Joel, Amos and Obadiah. Newcomers and experienced Bible students will find insight and inspiration as the authors highlight the striking similarities between the twenty-first century and the times of these prophets. Books are $7 and are available at the church. For information contact Bonnie at 389-0759.

The Classic Summer Book Club for women continues. Mothers and daughters are encouraged to participate. The group explores how the main characters discover what it means to be a woman of God. The Book Club discussion begins at 5:30 p.m. The final book is “Emma” by Jane Austen on Aug. 9, with an optional trip to Brambles Tea House. For meeting places and information call Meaghan at 776-4781.

New Life Community Church of God

Believercize for women, 10 a.m., every Friday. Free. Information call Bobbie at 250-5147. Alcoholics for Christ, a new ministry for victory over addictive lifestyles, meets 6:30 p.m., Fridays in the fellowship hall. For information call Mike at 313-530-3395.

Marco Lutheran Church

Splash, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., Sundays in the Family Room. Parents and children from birth to five years old gather together to learn about Jesus and meet new people as they are equipped to be their child’s spiritual leader. Parents will receive take home tools to provide practical ways to reinforce what was learned during the session as well as a free “The Big Picture Story Bible.”



The 5-Day Club returns to the Greater Marco Family YMCA. The Club offers a fun filled ninety minutes that includes dynamic Bible Lessons, creative learning activities, missionary stories, songs and life changing Scripture memorization. Children ages 5 to 12 are invited to attend. Sessions are offered 3:30 to 5 p.m., July 11 to 15 or 10 to 11:30 a.m., July 18 to 22. Free. Child Evangelism Fellowship sponsors the 5-Day Club. A parent permission slip is required to attend. Parents are also welcome to attend. For more information visit or The Greater Marco Family website at or Stephanie Percel at 239-394-3144 ext. 227 or

New Life Community Church of God

“Shake it up Café,” 3 to 6 p.m., July 18 to 22. Free. Call the church for information.

San Marco Catholic Church

Rising Kindergarteners and up are invited to learn about Jesus at “Inside Out and Upside Down on Main Street: Where Jesus Makes a Difference Every Day”, 9 a.m. to noon, July 25 to 29 in the Parish Center. Free. Call the church or visit to register.

The church will also host a summer intensive for middle and high school students during the week of the vacation Bible school from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Students are invited to enjoy the VBS experience in the morning, stay for lunch and delve into “The Teen Timeline—T3” Bible study. The study explores the great adventure of salvation history and will include movies, activities and games. Cost is $40 to cover materials and registration is required. Call Kim Adamson at the church ext. 13.

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 1

GorgonZola writes:

In addition to possessing a beautiful voice and being extremely knowledgeable, Hari Jacobsen and her husband Jack epitomize the best of their community by LIVING their beliefs. More than any others they participate in one of the holiest and most thoughtful acts: visiting the sick and taking the time to ask, and REALLY care about how one is feeling. Anyone can (and does) provide lip service: these are truly special people who live by example of their faith.

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