Larisa Averbakh is thrilled and honored to become a part of the Or Tamid family! Larisa grew up in Leningrad during the time when everything Jewish was silently and almost completely forbidden. Her family encouraged her initial curiosity in Judaism and Jewish culture. Among her family’s treasured possessions were vinyl recordings of the great cantors of old, preserved by her grandparents, the records of courageous Yiddish singers and actors of the Soviet era, bought by her parents during more liberal times, as well as books by great Yiddish authors like Sholom Aleichem and I.-L. Peretz in Russian translation. They helped to preserve her “pintele yid”, the spark of Jewishness, and provided a sense of inner freedom and spirituality in the closed and oppressive society.
Luckily her student years coincided with perestroika and great changes in the Soviet system that ultimately led to the downfall of the USSR. With the new taste of democracy, she embraced the opportunity to openly practice Judaism, study Hebrew and Yiddish, Jewish history and culture. She enrolled into St. Petersburg Jewish University to pursue a degree in Jewish Education, and eventually became a faculty member there. She was selected to participate in a prestigious “Mechanchim B’chirim” coursework at the Melton Center for Jewish Education in Diaspora at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since 1992, Larisa has been teaching Jewish music, history, and Hebrew in various Day and Sunday schools, as well as leading numerous seminars for teachers, organized by St. Petersburg Jewish University, Sochnut, and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s Yeshiva M’kor Chayim in Moscow. She was privileged to sing and conduct the children’s choir for the late Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin, during his historic visit to Russia in 1994. She also extensively performed recitals of Jewish folk and art music.
In 1997 Larisa immigrated to the United States to study at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which she graduated in 2002 with a Master’s Degree in Sacred Music, and a Cantorial ordination. Since then, she has been serving Beth Israel in Northfield, New Jersey. The highlights of her work over the years have included teaching music, t’filah and chanting of the Torah in Beth Israel Religious school, creating the children’s choir, writing and directing school Purim spiels, co-producing and directing the Holocaust era children’s opera, Brundibar, with all children’s cast, in collaboration with the Katz JCC and Stockton University of New Jersey, establishing interfaith relationship with the New Hope Baptist Church of Atlantic City, and adult education classes.
Cantor Larisa and her husband, Dmitri Leiderman, have two children, Michael and Pauline, who also speak fluent Russian and share their parents’ love of music.