‘Chanu-Cat’ on a Mission to Spread Light

Author Shari Cohen (left) and Cantor Marcelo Gindlin 

Bringing light into the lives of others is a life passion for Cantor Marcelo Gindlin of the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue. Anyone who has ever met the effervescent Gindlin or heard him sing will usually say they are touched by his kind-hearted spirit that shines through everything he does — and it’s a lot. As cantor for nearly 17 years at MJCS, Gindlin leads the congregation in song and prayer. He also founded and works tirelessly for Hand in Hand, a nonprofit group for young adults with special needs that meets weekly to socialize and share in song, arts activities, cooking and even yoga. His many charitable endeavors earned Gindlin a Dolphin Award in 2013 and he has been a Face of Malibu. If that weren’t enough to keep him busy, Gindlin also has singing engagements all over the world.

Now, the beloved cantor is launching his second children’s book and it’s just in time for Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. The book is called “The Chanu-Cat” and, as you may have guessed, it’s about a charming little cat that spreads joy and light wherever he goes, much like Cantor Gindlin himself. Gindlin calls the new project, “The ‘purr-fect’ book for the Chanukah season.” The holiday that lasts for eight nights starts on December 24th this year. 

This is Gindlin’s second collaboration with local children’s book author Shari Cohen. “My collaboration with Shari is like being in a sitcom. We laugh all the time,” Gindlin recently told The Malibu Times. “The story is about bringing light and warmth and it’s all about family and friendship and love. It’s like a big hug to the soul. I believe everybody has a light inside and I believe this will rekindle that light. This will remind everybody how important it is to appreciate the blessings we have in our lives.”

Cohen explained how the two started writing together.

“Not long after Marcelo came here from Argentina, he moved into my complex in Malibu,” Cohen recalled. “He was my neighbor. He introduced himself and asked what I did and I told him I was a children’s book author and I had a new book about a puppy and it was about a ‘bark mitzvah,’ The puppy goes through the same emotions that a child would go through coming of age and having their bar mitzvah ceremony, but I only wished I knew someone who could do music to go with it. I had no idea he was a cantor at that time.”

Cohen said the cantor was more than happy to jump right in to helping out with the music.

“He loved the idea and started singing right there,” Cohen recalled. “I said, ‘Where have you been all this time?’” We did everything, but in a dog’s world and that’s where the kids related. It was a success and we really enjoyed it.” 

After a successful and fun collaborative process, Cohen said the two decided to work together on another children’s book.

“We wanted to do another story that takes a beloved animal that has a giving heart and have them interact with a community. We thought Chanukah would be a great story. So we got together with an illustrator in Argentina, Pablo Vega, and the three of us worked together for months and months and we put together a story about a cat who comes upon a community that during the holidays is depressed, dark, quiet and the Chanu-cat roams around and is embraced in everybody’s home,” Cohen said. “But this village bothered him and he went through the village to find out what the problem was and he realized that everything in the village seemed to be about gifts and how many they could have, but they were a poor community who lost the Chanukah spirit. But the Chanu-cat tells everyone the holiday is not about money and gifts but it is about community, tradition, light and love. It’s all done in rhyme. The cat brings spirit back to the town. The book’s message is the love of family, friendship and tradition. It was a labor of love and we’re so excited with the results.” The two are working on a musical CD to go along with the book that they hope to have ready by next Chanukah

“The Chanu-Cat” even has an endorsement from the legendary comedian Jerry Lewis, who wrote a blurb for the book’s back cover. 


“The Chanu-Cat” is available on Amazon.