Congregation Agudath Achim was founded at the turn of the 20th century as an Orthodox synagogue. We have grown and flourished in three buildings during the decades.The first was in the Downtown area, the second was on Line Avenue, and now we are located in the southeast corner of Shreveport. The transition to Conservative Judaism was gradual after World War II, and for many years we were affiliated with United Synagogue of America.
For the last few decades we have been fully egalitarian, and our religious services have been quite traditional. During Friday evenings and on the High Holy Days there are many English responsive readings, usually led by congregants. On Shabbat mornings and on Festivals our worship is mostly in Hebrew, with a careful mixture of traditional chants and congregational melodies. On Shabbat we chant the Triennial Cycle of Torah readings, and our B'nei Mitzvah students usually chant a large portion of our service on their special day.
Over the decades, this synagogue has implemented a huge number of innovative programs, from social activities to youth and children's programs to educational programs for adults and students of all ages. Recent innovations include a volunteer choir for the High Holy Days, an English Purim play, the Jewish community youth theater productions with our students as cast members, a one-week Jewish Arts Day Camp in the summer, a biweekly program of Adult Education, Adult B'nai Mitzvah training, and online education for those choosing to become members of the Jewish People.
Hazzan Neil Schwartz has served Conservative Movement congregations for over 35 years in Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Saskatchewan. He is a 1980 graduate of the Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and in 2012 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from JTS. He earned five Units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) hospital-based Chaplaincy Training. Cantor Neil has been the Spiritual Leader for Congregation Agudath Achim since mid-2015. Cantor Schwartz has been an Adjunct Instructor of Biblical Cantillation and Liturgical Chant for the Online Program of Hebrew College since 2009. He taught the IMUN Program of United Synagogue for lay religious leaders, and he has been a regular workshop presenter at the annual conferences of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) and now for NewCAJE, its successor organization. Hazzan Schwartz is a dual member of the Cantors Assembly (Conservative Movement) and the American Conference of Cantors (Reform Movement). He founded the Music Network within CAJE, and he earned a Master of Arts in Religion and Culture from the University of Saskatchewan. Since 2007 he has notated musical settings for over 1,600 Hebrew prayers for the Tefillah TrainerTM teaching software of Kinnor.com, and he has published scholarly articles in the Journal of Synagogue Music of the Cantors Assembly.
I am a Shreveport native who has lived here since my beginning. I am a graduate of C. E. Byrd High School, and LSU-S with a degree in business and communications. A chunk of my program was at Loyola in New Orleans and LSU in Baton Rouge. I am semi-retired from my wholesale jewelry business and do some consulting, antique and estate work and appraising. The rest of my time is engaged with some travel, my hobby (fishing), my presidency of Agudath Achim, and my grandchildren (but not in that order). My cell phone, land line and email address are all available and I welcome any questions and comments regarding any and all of the above.