Zachary Mondrow Leaves Snow for Sunshine, Career as Cantor
“The problem was we had a rift in the family, one side liked the Stage, the other side liked Deli Unique,” said the West Bloomfield native. The breakdown? Dad liked the Stage, while mom swore by Deli Unique. Still, Mondrow proved to be his own man. He eats tuna fish at both these days.
Mondrow left Michigan in 2004, two weeks after graduating from Kalamazoo College with a major in music. He moved to Jerusalem to start attending Jewish Theological Seminary’s cantorial program, an idea planted in his head years earlier by his cantor, Earl Berris, at B’nai Moshe. Mondrow came back stateside in 2005, moving to New York City to continue his studies. Five years and a slew of Modern Hebrew, Bible, history of synagogue music, liturgy and education classes later, he got offered a job in Florida and took it, trading the snow for a clime he calls “fantastic.”
Today he’s a cantor at Temple Torah of West Boynton Beach in Boynton Beach, Florida.
But Detroit is still in his blood. “I bought a Ford. I defiantly bought a Ford because I wanted to support the Detroit auto industry.” Mondrow drives a Ford Fusion. And when he doffs a sweatshirt, it’s got University of Michigan or Kalamazoo colors.
After all, Michigan is where the heart is – or at least, it’s where the fondest dreams of his youngest years took shape. “The neighborhood was young and all my friends lived within two houses of me. There were no play dates, you just ran over, knocked on the kids’ door and said ‘you want to come outside?'”
It’s different now. “I want to pick up the phone and call someone, but the same people aren’t there.” But at least the world is bigger. “I went bowling every week,” he recalls. Now, he can travel further afield. When he’s in town he goes out in Birmingham, Ferndale or Royal Oak at least one night. He also has made a point over the years to stop by West Bloomfield High School and also Scotch Elementary, where he went to elementary school, to see his music teacher. “I often credit her for engaging me in music.”
And though when he went home for his high school reunion, he said he was reminded that he hadn’t followed the ‘traditional’ hometown path of becoming “a doctor or a lawyer,” he says he is happy with the route he has chosen. He considered a career in opera, but his passion for working with people and desire to put down roots as opposed to having a singer’s hectic travel schedule led him down his current path.”I think it was always expected by me and everyone I went to high school with that I was going to sing for a living.”