Gratitude to Cantor Bob - and blog transitions

Cantor Bob Scherr served as Jewish chaplain to Williams College for fourteen years. During many of those years I knew him as one of my Wednesday morning hevruta (text-study-friendship) partners at the coffee shop on Spring Street. As a study partner he is wise, thoughtful, and kind. I know that he brought those same qualities in abundance to his work at Williams and with WCJA.

Cantor Bob retired at the end of January, and I am truly blessed to be following in his footsteps in serving this community. Anything on this blog written before January 2017 was written by Cantor Bob; anything posted after that date will come from his successor(s).

But before this blog transitions to featuring divrei Torah and words from his successor(s), I wanted to take a moment to thank him one more time for his service and his leadership and his care. I know and appreciate him as a study partner and colleague, but the students know him in a different, and deeper, way. Here are words of gratitude to Cantor Bob from one of the students whose life he touched.

— Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Interim Jewish Chaplain to the College


Over the years, the job of Jewish Chaplain has required Cantor Bob to wear many different hats (or kippot!) on campus. Sometimes, he’s the recruiter-in-chief for WCJA, such as when he managed to rope me in for a Torah reading for the Rosh Hashanah of my freshman year during Previews weekend, before I had even committed to going to Williams. Other times, he’s the institutional memory for WCJA, which probably explains why I always found myself looking over in his direction during board meetings. From knowledge of financials, to putting together services and educational opportunities, to making sure the JRC didn’t fall apart, and so much more, it would take me more than my allotted space here to describe all the different roles that Bob has played on campus.

So instead, I’d like to focus on an aspect of Bob’s job that might not be as well known, but is just as important, and has probably meant the most to me over my time at Williams. During the fall semester of my junior year, I had a great deal of anxiety. I was scared, and didn’t know who to turn to. I decided to call Bob, the man who had already been like a surrogate parent to me in my time at Williams. Just hearing his voice on the other end of the phone made me feel a bit calmer. Over the coming months, Bob and I would have a weekly meeting in his office, every Wednesday at 1 PM. Even in the midst of everything I was going through, I always looked forward to those meetings. It seemed as though Bob always knew the right thing to say, and even if he didn’t, just knowing that he was there for me, to listen to me, and to care for me was enough, and helped me incredibly. Bob, I couldn’t have gotten through that without you. You’ve meant so much to this community over the years, building it into the home that it has been for me and countless other students, and caring for each and every one of us deeply and profoundly. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much, for everything. You will be missed dearly. Enjoy everything that retirement has to offer, and know that you always have a home here at Williams. We love you!

— Evan Ringel ’17, WCJA Co-President: