Live music may be a return to tradition of King David

Through his nonprofit organization called Breeyah, he works with musically talented congregants and staff members to start ensembles. He also has written dozens of arrangements of synagogue music.

In the time of King David, Jews "would not have considered services without music," he said. "It's a very deeply rooted Jewish tradition that we fell away from."

Pointing to the spirited musical tradition of gospel churches, Puzarne said, "We should be this joyous in shul, but we're not."

In April, he invited Jewish spiritual leaders from around the Bay Area to listen to a demonstration service at Reform Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo.

"The bottom line" to instrumental music in synagogues is "it brings people in," says Puzarne. "There is no question that this works."

Music has such power to invigorate congregants, he said, because it "just bypasses that whole analytical part and goes to the heart."

— Abby Cohn