Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto

Composer-in-Residence Ben Steinberg z”l


It was with a heavy heart that on February 11, 2023, we announced the passing of cherished composer, musician, teacher, mentor, friend, and so much more, Ben Steinberg z”l.

Ben has been a central figure in the music of Temple Sinai for five decades, serving as Director of Music beginning in 1970, and then as Composer-in-Residence since 1996. He was a passionate advocate for fine, thoughtful Jewish music. Ben called his music series at Temple Sinai, “Our Musical Legacy”. The heritage of our movement and the larger Jewish and cultural world is richer for his profound contribution and creativity.

Born in Winnipeg, Ben grew up in Toronto and participated in services with his father, Cantor Alexander Steinberg. At the age of eight, he performed as a child soloist and by the age of 12, he was conducting his first synagogue choir. Ben attended Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, studying composition with John Weinzweig, piano with Samuel Dolin, and voice with Weldon Kilburn. He then went on to study music education at the University of Toronto where he earned his Bachelor of Music. 

Ben is a widely-recognized composer, conductor and lecturer, noted for his lecture-recitals on Jewish Music History and style at major centres and universities across Canada and the United States, including Cornell University, where he has twice been invited as Dean Sage SpeakerHe conducted and lectured at numerous congregations as Scholar-in-Residence and in such places as Israel, Hong Kong, Australia and Japan. He was an inspiring teacher as head of the music department at Winston Churchill Collegiate and then for many years thereafter as head of the music program at Forest Hill Collegiate.

A professional composer of both sacred and secular music, Ben is perhaps the most widely commissioned composer of Jewish Music worldwide. His works have been published in the U.S., Canada and Israel; these include Shabbat services, choral and orchestral settings, instrumental and vocal chamber music as well as solo works.

In addition to his published music, Steinberg is author of two books on adult and youth choirs and is a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. His honours include the 1983 Kavod Award from the Cantors’ Assembly (Conservative), the 1990 Guild of Temple Musicians’ inaugural Shomer Shira Award, honorary membership in the American Conference of Cantors in 1992, a Composer’s Award from the American Harp Society in 1983, and the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1998.

On Dec. 6, 2001, the Reform movement (then called the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) presented him with its highest honour — the “Eisendrath Bearer of Light” award. He also has the distinction of having been twice honoured by the City of Jerusalem to be an Artist-in-Residence at its creative retreat. There he researched and wrote his cantata “Echoes of Children”, which won the 1979 International Gabriel Award.

He is the founding chairman of two unique annual competitions, which encourage young musicians to compose and perform; Temple Sinai’s “Ben Steinberg Musical Legacy Award” to a young performing artist, and the Guild of Temple Musicians’ “Young Composer’s Award”.

In recognition of his contribution to Canadian music and Jewish music worldwide, the University of Calgary (Alberta) has established a “Ben Steinberg Archive” to house his original manuscripts, scores and papers.