By: Benjamin Koslowe | News  | 

Sherwood Goffin, Renowned Cantor and Educator, Dies at 77

Cantor Sherwood Goffin, the cantor of Lincoln Square Synagogue on Manhattan’s West Side from its founding in 1965 until 2016, and a teacher of Jewish Liturgy and Folk Music since 1987 at Yeshiva University’s Belz School of Jewish Music, died on Wednesday, April 3. Goffin, a resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, leaves behind his wife Batya, as well as three children and several grandchildren. He was 77 years old.

Goffin grew up in New Haven, CT and attended high school at Mesivta Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn. He received a B.A. in psychology from Yeshiva College in 1963 and a Cantorial Degree from Belz School of Jewish Music in 1966.

“Cantor Goffin was a master teacher who not only taught the music of tefillah, but who instilled within each of his students the immense responsibility one assumes as he represents the kahal before the Ribbono Shel Olam,” expressed Akiva Schiff (YC ‘19), a student who took several Belz electives with Cantor Goffin.

From the 1960s and through the late-1990s, Cantor Goffin, known by many congregants and admirers as “The Chaz” (short for “chazzan,” the Hebrew word for cantor), was a popular artist in the world of contemporary Jewish music, performing at many concert venues in America and producing six record albums. He sang at every NCSY National Convention from 1962-1991. With his concert performances, Goffin popularized many songs, including “Eitz Chaim Hi” that is sung in many synagogues on Shabbat, the usage of “Keitzad Merakdim” for “Lecha Dodi” and many varied niggunim of the Bostoner Rebbe.

During those same decades, Cantor Goffin regularly participated in rallies protesting the Soviet Union’s treatment of its Jewish populace, singing rally songs before tens of thousands of Jews standing in solidarity at the United Nations or elsewhere. He sang at every Soviet Jewry demonstration in New York from 1964-1991.

Since 1996, Cantor Goffin stopped performing at concerts so that he could instead devote more energy to his cantorial role at Lincoln Square Synagogue and his academic role at Yeshiva University. As a teacher in Belz School of Music, Goffin for over 30 years consistently taught courses to college students and aspiring baalei tefillah (leaders of prayer); most recently, in Fall 2018, Goffin taught “Megilot Cantillation” and “Shabbat Shaharit.” Recognized as an expert on Nusach HaTefillah (the liturgical traditions of Jewish prayers), Goffin regularly lectured on the subject of the traditional Jewish prayer services’ cantillations and melodies. Goffin released several MP3 CDs that featured his renditions of Jewish prayers and music.

In his role as Cantor at the Lincoln Square Synagogue, Goffin led prayer services for over 50 years. Beyond the synagogue itself, Goffin during his career prepared over 400 bar mitzvahs and sang at hundreds of weddings. Since Goffin’s retirement, Cantor Yanky Lemmer has served as Head Cantor at the synagogue.

“Chazan Goffin ZT”L was one of my favorite teachers in YU, and I learned most of what I know about davening and nusach because of him,” wrote Jonathan Roytenberg (YC ‘18), a student who studied many courses with Cantor Goffin. “His passing is truly a personal loss for me. I will never forget everything he taught me and will cherish every memory I had in his classes.”

Cantor Sherwood Goffin’s funeral will take place on Thursday, April 4 at 10:30 a.m. at the Lincoln Square Synagogue, 180 Amsterdam Ave. in New York, NY and will be live-streamed on Lincoln Square’s Facebook page. The burial will follow at Cedar Park Cemetery, 735 Forest Ave. in Paramus, NJ. Shiva will be observed at the Goffin home, 142 West End Ave., Apt 2U in New York, NY from Thursday afternoon through Wednesday morning, April 10.

May Cantor Goffin’s family be comforted together with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.


Photo Caption: Cantor Sherwood Goffin
Photo Credit: Michael Datikash/The New York Jewish Week